By Josh Lanier
The search for the perfect Christmas tree is a holiday expedition many families will make this year, but fire and emergency personnel are asking that buyers beware.
Concord Fire and Life Safety, Kannapolis Fire Department, The American Red Cross Cabarrus Chapter and Cabarrus County Fire Marshal’s Office are working together to prevent Christmas tree fires. While fires haven’t been a major problem for the county, they are a growing problem nationwide.
Annually, Christmas tree fires affect nearly 250 homes, cause an average of 16 deaths and 25 injuries, and cost $13.1 million in damaged property nationwide, National Fire Protection Association statistics state. One of the best ways to curb a Christmas conflagration starts when you buy the tree.
Steve Cuthbertson has run Windy Ridge Christmas Tree lot on the corner of Bruton Smith Boulevard and U.S. 29 for the past 11 years and has owned a tree farm in Avery County since 1972. Cuthbertson believes the talk of safety should begin when the perfect tree is chosen.
“If the tree you bought isn’t being displayed in water, I wouldn’t buy it,” Cuthbertson said. “There’s no telling how long it’s been out of water and it begins to die as soon as its out.”
Dried-out trees pose the biggest threat for fires. In an NFPA test video, a dried tree is set on fire and in under 20 seconds is completely involved, overtaking any room it would be placed in.
“Make sure that the tree is given a fresh cut on its butt because sap will close up the old cut and won’t allow it to soak up any water,” Cuthbertson said.
He also pointed to breaking branches or falling needles as a sign a tree is too dry for purchase.
“If one of our trees is looking like that, we’ll throw it out,” he said.
To help customers in their purchase, fire officials will be handing out tags with trees that will go over basic safety guidelines.
“People are putting their trees up earlier and earlier, and that makes the chance for them to die and dry out earlier more deadly,” Kannapolis fire safety educator Maria Bostian said. “So are greater and greater chances for problems to arise as trees stay up longer.”
• Contact reporter Josh Lanier: 704 789-9144.