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City offers tips on how to treat trees

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 22, 2015 | Updated December 22, 2015 10:04am

 A green branch of a Douglas fir is displayed.

A green branch of a Douglas fir is displayed.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Setting up and maintaining a Christmas tree requires more than ornaments, garland and a star on top — it requires a commitment to safety, according to the Sterling Heights Fire Department.

According to a list of the Fire Department’s safety tips, Christmas trees might not be the most common cause for fires, but they can be dangerous when they happen. Electrical mishaps and proximity to heat sources are listed as two of the most common threats.

As of mid-December, Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin said, his department has not had any Christmas tree-related fires this year. He said Christmas tree safety starts with picking out a tree that can reliably absorb water.

“Make sure before you install it or put it up you have to cut it fresh,” he said. “Any sap on the bottom reduces the amount of water it absorbs.”

Martin said it’s important to maintain a live tree’s freshness by regularly keeping the water basin filled up. A sign that a tree is getting too dry is when the needles fall off easily.

“Make sure you remove (the tree) if it’s really dry,” he said.

To further reduce the chance of fires, the Fire Department recommends keeping the tree away from fireplaces, candles, heat vents, radiators and hot lights. Martin said owners should be vigilant about checking strands of Christmas tree lights to make sure that there are no shorts and that they are not damaged. Furthermore, the tree’s lights should be switched off before bedtime or before people leave.

When it’s time to throw out the tree, Sterling Heights offers a Christmas tree recycling program until Jan. 30, 2016.

At a Dec. 15 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool described what residents must do to take advantage of the program. Residents have to deposit the tree by the curb by 7 a.m. on their normally scheduled garbage pickup day.

Before being ready for disposal and eventual wood chipping, the tree must be stripped of coverings, tinsel, ornaments, hooks and other adornments.

“You simply have to bring the tree completely bare, with everything off it, of course, bags included, and just drag it out to the curb,” Vanderpool said.

Vanderpool described the program’s environmental benefits of the recycling program’s wood chipping.

“That will avoid the trees going into the landfill, so we’re glad to continue that program,” he said.

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Fire Department by calling (586) 446-2950. Find out more about the Christmas tree recycling program by calling the Sterling Heights Department of Public Works at (586) 446-2440.