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'Never Let It Run Out Of Water': Many Christmas Trees Drier Than Normal Due To Drought

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- There's something you should know if you're getting, or already have, a real live Christmas tree this year.

Firefighters say safety is especially key this year. The local drought, combined with people buying their trees early this year, could be cause for concern.

At Happy Land Tree Lot in St. Paul, there's much to smile about. Tony Bacon is a longtime employee.

"It's just been constant. People are eager to get trees," Bacon said.

But those trees were harder to come by for the growers. Happy Land, which cuts fresh from their Sandstone farm, used extreme irrigation methods this summer to make sure the drought didn't dry out their trees.

"Lots of fertilizer, and then extra irrigation," Bacon said. "Our trees, you know, are a lot heavier than they used to be, it's because all of that moisture."

He says one way to gauge the moisture and health of a tree in a lot is to run your hand down and see if any leaves break off. He also says maintenance is crucial.

"Check it twice a day, never let it run out of water," Bacon said.

Christmas Trees
(credit: CBS)

It's a tip that's vital, because flames can tear through a dry tree. Capt. Roy Mokosso and other firefighters with the St. Paul Fire Department did a demonstration for WCCO.

"Trees can become exceptionally dry if they haven't been watered, and even if they have been watered, they will become dry," Mokosso said.

They added hay to show what happens at the end of the season when a tree is extra dry.

"When the tree's really dry, the branches are essentially fine fuels, so the whole tree can go up in a time frame of maybe 30 seconds," Mokosso said.

He says to keep trees watered, away from heat vents, and don't overload extension cords.

Here are other safety tips:

* Don't place a tree near furniture.
* Get it in water within an hour after it's cut.
* Make sure the tree has extra water for the first few days.

Experts say a properly-maintained tree should be able to last around six weeks.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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