Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson, part of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, is reminding Hoosiers to properly dispose of their live Christmas trees.

The average life span of a Christmas tree is one month after purchase. Consumers should monitor a Christmas tree for freshness and note that when a tree’s needles drop, it means the tree is too dry. These dropped needles are more than just a nuisance to clean up, but rather are an indication that the dry tree is a fire hazard and should be removed from the home. Remove all decorations before disposing of the Christmas tree.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, roughly one of every 32 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 143 total reported home fires. Between 2011-15, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 200 home fires per year that started with Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of six deaths, 16 injuries and $14.8 million in direct property damage annually.

Many communities offer a disposal or pickup service for Christmas trees. Recycle Indiana has a statewide list of Solid Waste Management Programs, which can be found here: http://bit.ly/INSolidWasteManagement. This service allows Indiana residents to locate waste management district and disposal options in their area. When traveling to dispose a tree, carefully secure the tree to the vehicle. Trees that have dried out will be very light, and branches can break easily during travel. Do not drop off artificial Christmas trees at real Christmas tree recycling events.

If disposing of a Christmas tree at home, treat the tree as garden waste. Do not lean the tree against any structures and instead place it in a designated decomposition pile. Placing the tree in a garden or backyard can provide winter shelter for birds and other wildlife. Another option is chopping the tree for firewood for summer bonfires, or indoor use next winter when the wood is properly seasoned.

For more information on holiday and fire safety, visit GetPrepared.IN.gov. Follow IDHS on Twitter @idhs and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IndianaDHS/.