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Care needed to prevent tree fires (video)

Demonstration shows need for watering

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
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Schuyler Heights volunteer fireman Conor Scully extinguishes a burning tree with dry chemical Tuesday morning during a demonstration on Christmas tree safety hosted by Albany Fire Extinguisher at its headquarters in Watervliet, with assistance from the Schuyler Heights Fire Department.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Schuyler Heights volunteer fireman Conor Scully extinguishes a burning tree with dry chemical Tuesday morning during a demonstration on Christmas tree safety hosted by Albany Fire Extinguisher at its headquarters in Watervliet, with assistance from the Schuyler Heights Fire Department.

— A dry and neglected Christmas tree can go up in smoke in a few seconds.

That was the message Albany Fire Extinguisher provided at a demonstration Tuesday morning at the company’s headquarters, where staff members tried to light three typical trees on fire.

“The reminder is that a dry tree can be very, very dangerous,” said Tom Kretzler, the company’s owner. “They’re very flammable.”

To prove his point, he attempted to light three trees that had received varying degrees of water. All the while, members of the volunteer Schuyler Heights Fire Department were nearby.

The first tree, which had been regularly watered, was almost impossible to light after a few seconds of a propane flame moving back and forth across its base. Branches and pine needles would spark, but it wouldn’t evolve into flames and would even stop flickering after a few seconds. A second and longer blast of flame from Kretzler wouldn’t cause the tree to burn, either.

This demonstrated the importance of keeping a tree watered every day, he said, as it was less likely to catch fire as a result. A typical tree can handle more than a gallon of water a day.

Kretzler added that trees should be kept away from heat sources or open flames. If you’re going to be away from a tree for an extended period, don’t leave the tree lights on, either, he warned.

About 250 structure fires happen each year that involve Christmas trees, according to Kretzler.

He also noted that neglected trees, as opposed to ones that have never received water, are more susceptible to catching fire.

A tree that initially received water, but was then kept dry, wouldn’t burn from a few seconds of flame applied by Kretzler. After his first attempt fizzled out, though, he reapplied the flame and it slowly spread to the top, only occupying part of the tree and not spreading out completely.

Then, Schuyler Heights firefighter Conor Scully put out the fire, spraying a dry chemical on the tree from the bottom up. Kretzler said people sometimes will incorrectly spray their personal fire extinguisher at the top of the flames.

A third tree, which was purchased at the start of the month but hadn’t received any water, then got the same treatment. The tree appeared to be in similar shape as the other two, sporting a thick green coat of needles, but it took to fire differently. Despite a drizzle of rain, the tree still was nearly engulfed in about 20 seconds.

Kretzler said residents should be prepared for tree fires by having working smoke detectors in the house and a working fire extinguisher handy.

Albany Fire Extinguisher serves companies and organizations that need to maintain fire extinguishers on their premises.

 
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