Nikki Fried and Florida Forest Service issue Christmas tree disposal and fire safety tips

Florida flag. Christmas tree branch with a flag of Florida state. Xmas holidays greetings card. Winter landscape outdoors.
Many local governments or waste collectors offer tree recycling services.

Christmas trees can be unintended fire tinder if not discarded properly, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Florida Forest Service officials warn.

Recycling is the first disposal method listed by FFS, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, in a post-Christmas press release. Local governments or waste collectors may offer recycling services like curbside pickup, recycling centers and mulching programs.

“We are encouraging all residents and visitors to be vigilant this holiday season,” Fried said. “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.”

Dry tree limbs and needles are potential fire hazards near homes and natural areas. Since January, FFS has responded to more than 1,800 wildfires that have burned at least 91,000 acres.

“With a few simple preventative steps, everyone can take a proactive role in wildfire safety,” said Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of FFS.

Yet burning these evergreens may be a disposal option, if local burn bans and outdoor burning requirements allow. Proper weather conditions and burn sites are just some of the safety precautions raised by FFS:

  • 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.

Unwanted artificial trees, though they may deceive unwitting friends and family, won’t deceive waste collectors. Metals and plastics are bulk waste and cannot go out with yard waste.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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