Prevent house fires; recycle that Christmas tree

by Wes Mayer

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The Coweta County Environmental Management Department accepts Christmas trees at all 12 of the county's compactor and recycling sites 

Now that the Christmas holiday has passed, it is time to take down the tree.

Those who keep cut Christmas trees inside for days or even weeks after the presents have been opened may be trying to hold on to the Christmas spirit, but the practice may also be creating a danger to their home.

According to officials with the National Fire Protection Association, having a dried-out Christmas tree inside a home is a major fire hazard homeowners often forget about.

'The longer they are in the home, the more dangerous they become,' said Lorraine Carli, the vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for the NFPA. 'The continued use of seasonal lighting and dried-out trees can pose significant fire hazards in and outside the home. Proper disposal of the tree from your home will minimize the risk and will keep the holiday a joyful one.'

Research has shown that nearly half of home fires caused by Christmas trees actually occurred in January, according to the NFPA.

These fires are rare but are often more deadly than fires that resulted from another source. One out of 40 home structure fires caused by a Christmas tree resulted in a death, as compared to the one out of every 124 home structure fires caused by other means.

Fortunately, it is easy for homeowners to recycle their Christmas trees in Coweta County.

The Coweta County Environmental Management Department accepts Christmas trees at all 12 of the county's compactor and recycling sites through the 'Bring One in For the Chipper' program.

A complete list of all 12 compactor sites and operating hours can be found by visiting www.coweta.ga.us and clicking on the 'Environmental Management' tab. 'Homeowners can bring trees to one of the compactor sites during regular business hours, and Environmental Management employees will pick them up,' said Matt Lovett with the Coweta Environmental Management Department.

The department asks homeowners to remove all ornaments, lights and tinsel from the trees before recycling.

In addition to normal business hours, the department will hold a recycling day next Saturday, Jan. 4, at the county's Ishman Ballard Solid Waste Facility from 8 a.m. to noon. Additional employees will be there during that time to help unload Christmas trees.

'We spread [hours and availability] out to give people a big opportunity to bring their trees,' Lovett said.

Lovett said the trees will be ground into mulch and the chips will be bagged, placed outside the recycling centers' gates and will be free for anyone to come by and pick up. The chips make great fish habitats for lakes and ponds.

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension also shared a number of other ways Christmas trees may be recycled.

According to Extension Service officials, the entire trees make great fish habitats when dropped into the water - just place the trunk into a can, fill the can with concrete and drop it into a deep area away from swimmers.

For a more creative recycling project, Christmas trees can be whittled down to walking sticks, can have the bottom branches chopped off to make a coat rack, can be turned into a bottle tree - by cutting off the ends of branches and putting empty wine bottles on them or can simply be chopped up and used for kindling in fires.

To prevent fires, there are a few other precautions homeowners should take when packing up Christmas decorations, according to the NFPA.

When unplugging electrical decorations, never pull the cord out of the outlet by the cord itself - use the gripping area closest to the outlet to prevent damaging the wire's insulation.

Homeowners should also carefully inspect each electrical light string for damage before packing - if damaged cords are found, they should be thrown away. All electrical decorations and light strings should be individually packaged in plastic bags or wrapped around a piece of cardboard, and all electrical decorations should be stored in a location where it can't be damaged by water or dampness, or children and pets.




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