xmastreeburn.gif Our Christmas tree is still delightfully filling the right side of our loft. Hah! No one is taking the holidays away from us that easy. Of course, the further we get into 2006, the dimmer the lights grow and the more the poor, dry branches sag. Still, we picked a wonderful tree and we trimmed it to perfection. And until the boy scouts come in and drag it down the stairs and out the door... we're keeping it.

Or until the house burns down. But let's not think about that.

I am reminded of a story...

When I lived in Newark the fire station had a four or five story practice building behind it, just walls, floors and stairs. They'd do drills and trial runs with the big ladder trucks using that building. After it started looking dingy, the city payed to repaint the outside. We citizens were the ones who had to look at it, after all, while driving down Cherry Street. With it's new creamy coat of paint, the firehouse practice building wasn't necessarily a landmark, but people didn't mind noticing it anymore.

That Christmas the fire chief had a brilliant idea. Each year hundreds of house fires are started when people are unsafe about their tree care. And if having your house burned down isn't bad enough... losing it to a holiday bonfire is really sobering. Anyway, feeling that the Newarkians weren't taking his warnings about keeping trees away from light sockets seriously, the Chief decided to have a demonstration. People tend to heed visual warnings more often, right?

On a blank winter afternoon, the Chief leaned a big Christmas tree up against the back wall of the fire practice building. People gathered around, but not too close. He wasn't taking any chances. He wanted to shock people, not singe them. At his command, the semi-dry tree was sparked and then engulfed immediately in jumping flames.

The crowd gasped. Everyone made mental notes to keep their Christmas trees away from anything that utilized electicity or fire. Some applauded.

The Chief bowed, smugly.

But he hadn't bargained for what superb kindling that tree really was. In just a few seconds the raging flames had shot up the side of the building. Naturally there wasn't anything to burn way up there. Still, the Chief's face contorted in horror when he saw the dancing, bubbling and peeling of the month-old paint job reacting to the heat. Supposedly the paint used on buildings like that was flame-retardent. The Chief had underestimated the heat that one Christmas tree could fuel.

Thus, for Christmas the city got to pay for another repainting of the practice building, and the Chief was undoubtedly chewed out by the mayor or someone.

It's folk lore now. What fire chief would do anything that dumb? We've all forgotten his name. Many have forgotten the story. But I think it's worth while to record such an event for posterity. And now I think it's time to get this tree out of the house.