I received the email below from my brother (a firefighter) a little while ago. Make sure to watch the video attached to the links below.

Holiday Tree Fire Hazards

Water That Tree!

What’s a holiday party or even the traditional Christmas morning scene itself without a beautifully decorated tree? If your household, as those of more than 33 million other American homes, includes a natural tree in its festivities, take to heart the sales person’s suggestion –“Keep the tree watered.” That’s good advice and not just to create a fragrant indoor winter wonderland atmosphere. Christmas trees account for 400 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths, 80 injuries and more than $15 million in property damage. Typically shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem. Dry and neglected trees can be.

The video link above, from the Building and Fire Research Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, illustrates what happens when fire touches a dry tree. Within three seconds of ignition, the dry Scotch pine is completely ablaze. At five seconds, the fire extends up the tree and black smoke with searing gases streaks across the ceiling. Fresh air near the floor feeds the fire. The sofa, coffee table and the carpet ignite prior to any flame contact. Within 40 seconds “flashover” occurs — that’s when an entire room erupts into flames, oxygen is depleted and dense, deadly toxic smoke engulfs the scene. 40 SECONDS!!!!!

Wet trees tell a different story. For comparative purposes, the NIST fire safety engineers selected a green Scotch pine, had it cut in their presence, had an additional two inches cut from the trunk’s bottom, and placed the tree in a stand with at least a 7.6 liter water capacity. The researchers maintained the Scotch pine’s water on a daily basis. A single match could not ignite the tree. A second attempt in which an electric current ignited an entire matchbook failed to fire the tree. Finally they applied an open flame to the tree using a propane torch. The branches ignited briefly, but self-extinguished when the researchers removed the torch from the branches.

As NIST fire safety engineers say: REMEMBER, A WET TREE IS A SAFE TREE!

See the video. Water your tree!


It’s just after noon on the day after Christmas. The sky’s white, and the wind is cold, and a small dog is sleeping next to me on the sofa, with her nose tucked in under my knee.

I have much to do. The router needs rebooting. There’s work in the second bedroom to be done before January when visitors and snowstorms will both guarantee occupation at some point or another. There’s a kitchen to clean, gifts to put away, and we need to find a place to put the tree until next year.

Instead, I read. Bradbury. Quicker than the Eye. I’m transported from this place to that – a farmhouse in Massachusetts, a library, the old roads below the highway, Dog’s funeral. And my own bookshelf, where books read and unread mingle, and swell in ranks.

We received another bookcase for Christmas – a blessing – and I look forward to tearing all the books off their shelves again and moving the books stacked on the floor next to the shelves and at the foot of the steps to proper places. Usually, my husband rearranges them quite clinically, sorted by type/subject and alphabetized by author, one step short of enforcing the Dewey Decimal System.

If he’s not careful, I’ll beat him to it this year, and rearrange them in a more meaningful manner: Read, Unread, and Not The Type You Read Straight Through. Maybe even make it complicated: He Read, She Read, They Didn’t Read Yet, and Reference.

The house is cool and dark. From the porch it looks deserted, the family inside having gone out to celebrate Boxing day or such. In truth, it is deserted, for I am far away along the Martian canals (having switched books), my feet swishing through their dead skin like dried leaves, wondering about the conflicts of Earth, so far away.