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Iowa Department of Public Safety
215 East 7th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

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For immediate release: Alex Murphy
  Public Information Officer
Investigative Operations
Iowa Department of Public Safety
Wednesday, December 18, 2013

(515) 443-3014 - cell
(515) 725-6189 - office

State Fire Marshal Wants You to
Go Green for Christmas Tree Safety

Christmas Tree Safety


These two trees were cut the same date and time. The tree on the left is safe because it was watered continuously while the tree on the right was not watered.  In just 16 days without water, you can see the difference in how combustible your tree will become.


As you deck the halls this holiday season, the Iowa Department of Public Safety wants you to remember these important safety tips when selecting a real Christmas tree.  Picking a fresh green tree free of dead needles will help ensure your tree lasts throughout the holiday season. There is nothing more memorable than picking a Christmas tree with your family.  We want your holiday to be free from fire so keep your tree green by watering your tree daily.

  • Choose a healthy tree.  If possible, buy a Christmas tree from a tree farm, where you can purchase your tree while it is still in the ground.  A freshly cut tree will last longer than one that has been cut weeks ago and shipped to distant retailers.

  • Steer clear of trees with a large number of dead or browning needles- these trees are already past their prime.  Gently stroke a branch on the tree to make sure the needles are flexible and remain on the tree.  

  • Choose a clear location for the tree.  It should be kept away from open flames or heat sources, which may dry it out prematurely.  Trees do sometimes burn so be careful.  Corners are good places to put trees because this placement keeps them safe from being tipped over.

  • If you’ll be using lights to decorate your tree, place the tree close to an outlet so you won’t have to use extension cords to avoid tripping hazards.

  • Prepare the base of your tree by using a handsaw to cut about 1 inch off the bottom.  This fresh cut will aid your tree in water absorption.  Note: it is recommended that you don’t cut the base at an angle or in a V-shape.  None of these cuts aid in water absorption and make your tree unsteady in a stand. 

  • Trees need water to stay green.  Mount your tree within two hours of cutting the base.  Tree growers recommend using warm water the first time you water your tree to soften any tree sap buildup.  A tree should have a continuous supply of water in the stand to avoid drying out.  If the stand you use to support your tree is dry, so is your tree.

  • It’s a good time to think about tree safety with these steps: 

      • Check each string of lights to ensure the bulbs are properly working.

      • Inspect cords to make sure they are not frayed or bitten by pets.

      • Never use candles anywhere near your Christmas tree especially not as tree decorations.

      • Place small or fragile ornaments out of the reach of small children and pets to prevent accidental breakage or ingestion. 

  • When Christmas is over, don’t keep your tree too long.  Properly dispose of it at recycling centers or in an approved location.  Many people place trees in lakes to improve fish habitat.  Make sure to check with local officials or park rangers before depositing old trees into lakes.

  • You know it’s fresh when you cut it.” Says Gary Harman from Walnut Ridge Farms.  If you have questions about where you can find fresh Christmas trees, contact a local grower at www.iowachristmastrees.com/farm.php

The entire State Fire Marshal staff wishes you and your family a very fire safe holiday.

If you have questions about Christmas tree care, contact the State Fire Marshal Division at
515-725-6145 or email fminfo@dps.state.ia.us


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