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Michigan trees help ring in holidays

December 20, 2010
Daily Press

Are you looking for that perfect Christmas tree to make your holiday season bright and festive?

If you answered yes, then look no further than a Michigan-grown Christmas tree.

"Michigan produces and sells more than a dozen tree varieties on a wholesale level - more varieties than any other state - so there is no shortage of choices to find that perfect tree," said Gordon Wenk, chief deputy director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA).

The climate, soils and topography of Michigan permit the production of many popular species of Christmas trees.

The top Christmas tree species are Scotch Pine.

The three other leading species are Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir and Colorado Blue Spruce.

Michigan has approximately 42,000 acres in commercial Christmas tree production, with an annual farm gate value of over $45 million.

The top six counties - Allegan, Manistee, Missaukee, Montcalm, Oceana, and Wexford - account for just over 50 percent of Michigan's total Christmas tree acreage. The industry also generates an additional $1.3 million in sales of wreaths, cut boughs, garland, and other cut greens.

"Many family holiday traditions include a trip to a Christmas tree farm this time of year to choose and cut the perfect tree," said Marsha Gray, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association.

"Many people don't realize that Michigan ranks third in the nation in the number of Christmas trees harvested," Gray said.

After the holidays, there are several ways to recycle your Christmas trees. Many communities chip the trees and use them for mulch, hiking trails, playground areas, animal stalls, or landscaping.

Whole trees are recycled for an even greater variety of uses: river shoreline stabilization, sand dune erosion prevention, marshland sedimentation, fish habitat, winter garden decorations, wild bird feeders, even hazardous chemical clean-ups.

Additionally, the Michigan State Fire Marshal reminds residents to thoroughly water their tree daily to reduce the chance of a holiday tragedy.

"When a Christmas tree catches fire there are literally only seconds to escape safely," said State Fire Marshal Ronald R. Farr.

"Removing a dry tree and subsequently the chance for a deadly fire to occur is easier to live with than the consequences such as the loss of your home, or even worse, family members," Farr said. "A Christmas tree is replaceable, but your loved ones are not, so don't take the risks."

Each year, an average of 260 home fires start with Christmas trees causing 14 deaths, 26 injuries and more than $13.8 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Farr said shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires.

The Bureau of Fire Services asks consumers to follow these important guidelines for holiday tree safety:

- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree will not catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.

- When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.

- When setting up a tree at home cut one or two inches off the bottom and place the tree in water as soon as possible.

Keep the stand filled water because heated rooms dry out live trees rapidly.

- When choosing a spot in your home to place your Christmas tree make sure it does not block an exit that may be needed in an emergency.

- Place the tree away from fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, heating vents, and other sources of heat. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.

- Christmas trees should be checked daily and at the first sign of dryness be removed from the home. The drier the tree, the greater the fire hazard.

- Position the tree solidly in the tree stand. If the tree seems wobbly, center it in the stand more securely and redo the bolts or screws.

- Place the tree near an electrical outlet if possible so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place rugs over cords to disguise them; this can become an increased fire hazard.

- Don't use any strings of lights that are frayed or broken.

- Don't leave lit trees unattended. Unplug all lights on the Christmas tree before leaving home or going to bed.

- Watch small children closely when they are around the tree; many small decorations and ornaments are sharp, breakable and can be swallowed.

- When Christmas is over or when the tree starts to drop needles, dispose of it. Don't leave it in the house or garage.



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