The Cambrian

Cambria residents should take care in disposing of Christmas trees

A Christmas tree is left at the Chicago Grade landfill in Atascadero in this 2002 photo.
A Christmas tree is left at the Chicago Grade landfill in Atascadero in this 2002 photo.

As the holiday season winds down, Cambria residents should take special precautions when disposing of their Christmas trees.

Responsible people dispose of their cut trees though the local greenwaste recycling program, at a local landfill which either buries or composts all greenwaste or by chipping the tree on site and composting the chips and using them as a mulch around their homes.

All of that is especially good advice in a community set within a 3,200-acre native Monterey pine forest that includes many drought-damaged, dead and dying trees. All that fuel increases the risk of fire, especially in the hot summer and fall months.

Tossing a holiday tree into a gulch somewhere is not acceptable, and is probably illegal. And you should never burn a Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove, because doing so could contribute to creosote buildup and cause a chimney fire.

According to FEMA statistics, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) reported 23,100 chimney or fireplace fires in 2013, and 10 related fatalities. These fires caused $109 million in property loss.

Recycling the tree

To recycle a cut tree, Mission Country Disposal requires removal of everything from the tree, including tinsel, decorations, lights and even the little ornament hangers.

On your regular trash-collection day, put the tree out early, near your green-waste wheel-around bin.

If a tree is more than 6 feet tall, it must be cut into sections no longer than 4 feet long, or it won’t fit in the recycling truck’s bin.

Flocked, tinsel-coated or artificial trees cannot be recycled, and should be cut up and placed in the trash bin.

Pitch canker

Also, North Coast residents should take special precautions in disposing of their Christmas trees to help stem the spread of pitch canker.

The fungus is an incurable disease that has killed thousands of Monterey pines, including some on the North Coast, which has the state’s southernmost stand of native Monterey pines.

Some Christmas trees (Monterey pines and others) may carry the fungus, and the task force says it’s vital not to carry any part of those trees to areas that aren’t already infested with pitch canker.

For additional information, contact the county’s Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, 905-781-5910, or go to or