Fiery Fresno demonstration warns about dry Christmas trees (video)

The Fresno BeeJanuary 3, 2014 

The Fresno Fire Department burned two Christmas trees Friday morning to demonstrate the danger dry trees pose in homes.

The controlled event was staged to show how fast a tree can go up in flames -- and how fast it can engulf nearby walls and other flammable household materials, said department spokesman Koby Johns.

"We can talk all day about how dangerous it is to keep a tree but when you actually see one burning, and a living space, I think that really hammers home the message that we're trying to get out there," Johns said.

He said there are nearly 400 home fires annually in the U.S. due to Christmas trees and holiday decorations. These fires account for an average of 21 fatalities and $25.2 million in property damage.

This year in the central San Joaquin Valley there has been at least one seasonal fire -- the Reedley Fire Department said Monday that Christmas tree lights left burning overnight helped propel a fire that destroyed a two-story home in the city. The couple inside were alerted by smoke alarms and escaped.

For Friday's event, the fire department brought one tree from a firefighters' home while the other came from the department's headquarters. Lyles Construction of Fresno contributed the empty building that is used for training.

For a personal touch, firefighters carried out an annual tradition by decorating the room to be burned with stockings and "family photos" -- all showing Battalion Chief Chuck Tobias, part of a running joke.

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