(FDACS) — The Florida Forest Service is encouraging Floridians to dispose of Christmas trees safely. Dry limbs and needles from discarded Christmas trees can be an ignition source for fire if not 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 this potential fire hazard 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.
Some residents may choose to burn their Christmas trees. The Florida Forest Service urges the public to use extreme caution, providing the following 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 wood stove;
- 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.
The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres.