Fire safety tips: Be careful when it’s time to toss Christmas tree

Recycling is one option to avoid fire hazards with tree disposal

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – You might be one who tosses out the Christmas tree as soon as the holiday passes, or maybe you keep it up for another week -- or two.

But when you decide it’s time to untangle the tinsel and lights and toss the tree, the Florida Forest Service wants you to keep safety in mind.

Dry limbs and needles from discarded Christmas trees can be a fire hazard if they aren’t properly cleared away from homes and natural areas.

“We are encouraging all residents and visitors to be vigilant this holiday season,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried. “Trees discarded improperly can quickly turn into wildfire fuel. Make sure to follow our Florida Forest Service’s fire safety tips to ensure your Christmas tree is disposed of safely.”

One way to avoid potential fire hazards is by recycling Christmas trees. Many communities offer tree recycling services, such as curbside pick-up, recycling centers and mulching programs. Check with your local city or county government or utility service for more information about Christmas tree disposal and recycling programs.

For a county-by-county list of options around the state, click here.

St. Johns County is offering a Treecycling program from Monday through Jan. 5. Clean, real trees free of decorations can be brought to drop-off locations to be recycled into mulch for county parks. Drop-off times are from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Ron Parker Park: 607 Old Beach Road, St. Augustine Beach
  • Cornerstone Park: 1046 A1A North, Ponte Vedra Beach
  • Al Wilke Park: 6140 South Main St., Hastings
  • Mills Field: 1805 Racetrack Road, St. Johns
  • First Tee: 4401 Cypress Links Blvd., Elkton
  • Davis Park: 210 Davis Park Road, Ponte Vedra Beach

For more information, contact Nathan Otter at notter@sjcfl.us or 904-209-0323.

Duval County is always under a burn ban, but if you live in a neighboring county and you want to burn your Christmas tree, be VERY careful, the Florida Forest Service says.

Follow these tips for safe outdoor burning:

  • Check local ordinances for county burn bans and requirements for outdoor burning
  • Never burn on dry, windy days
  • Only burn if significant rainfall has occurred in the last three or four days
  • Select a burn location that is at least 25 feet from your home, 25 feet from natural areas, 50 feet from paved public roads and 150 feet from other occupied buildings
  • Remove all decorations from the tree before burning
  • Cut the tree into manageable sections
  • Clear the area around the tree down to bare soil to prevent the fire from spreading – free of leaf litter, pine straw and other flammable materials
  • Keep a water source and a shovel or suppression tool on-hand
  • Never leave a fire unattended
  • Completely extinguish a fire before leaving
  • Never burn a Christmas tree in a fireplace or woodstove
  • Immediately call 911 to report any fires

“With a few simple preventative steps, everyone can take a proactive role in wildfire safety,” said Jim Karels, state forester and director of the Florida Forest Service.

Since January, the Florida Forest Service has responded to over 1,800 wildfires that have burned more than 91,000 acres. To view an interactive map of active wildfires, drought and fire danger forecast information and a list of current county burn bans, visit FDACS.gov/Wildfire.

About the Author: