Rockville Apartments Ban Real Christmas Trees, but MCFRS Chief Says Not to Worry

Some Rockville apartment complexes have banned real Christmas trees this year out of concern for fire safety, but MCFRS Chief Scott Goldstein says live trees are safe when properly maintained.

Escher Apartments at 1900 Chapman Avenue in Rockville posted signage around the complex disallowing real trees, the first time in the apartments’ history doing so. “Real trees are not allowed in the building,” the signs state. “The use of artificial trees, however, is highly encouraged.”

Real trees are in high demand this year, and supply is limited. According to Butler’s Orchard general manager and third generation farmer Tyler Butler, GenZ and Millennials “want to come out and have that experience with their young families. Demand has been higher than it’s ever been.”

According to MCFRS, a fourth of Christmas tree fires are due to dried out trees being too close to a heat source. The National Fire Protection Association estimates there are 160 home fires caused by Christmas trees each year.

“All of the holiday decorations can be a fire hazard,” Goldstein said in an interview. “I’ve had live trees in my house for years.”

Four Montgomery County Volunteer Fire squads are selling trees this year, with proceeds benefitting operations. Trees are being sold at Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad, and Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department. Trees are selling quickly, and Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad has only 27 trees left available.

Goldstein said when selecting a tree, a fresh cut base is most important. Branches should be pliable and resilient to avoid purchasing a dried out tree, which poses the greatest fire hazard.

“The most important thing with a fresh cut, is as soon as you get home, put it in a bucket of water and keep it out of the sun,” Butler said. If a tree remains unwatered, the sap can dry the base up quickly, preventing the tree from hydrating. A properly maintained tree can drink up to a gallon of water a day, Butler said.

“People forget,” Butler said. “When you wake up in the morning, and you feed your kid, feed your dog, you have to feed your tree, too.”

Goldstein also reccommended trees be kept away from all heat sources and open flames, and that UL or FM rated lights be used, as long as they are turned off when unsupervised.

A properly maintained tree can last up to 30 days, Goldstein said. “As soon as your holiday’s over, you do want to go ahead and transition this tree outside and get it to your local community recycling process so that it can be picked up and taken care of.”

Residents can dial 311 for a free home check by MCFRS to prevent home fires.

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