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Why Firefighters Hope You Toss the Tree, and When Metro Waste Makes it Easy

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  When do you take your Christmas tree down? The week after Christmas? After New Year's Day? Or does it stay up until February? Des Moines firefighters hope you do it sooner rather than later.

“If it's a dry tree, they will go up pretty quick. They can start consuming the room in a minute or less,” said Lt. Rick Thomas of the Des Moines Fire Department.

For some families who still have wrapping paper lying around or gifts still under the tree, the family living room is a more flammable place than usual.

“Housekeeping is a big thing. If you do have a fire, it's gonna spread a lot more rapidly with the more combustibles that you have,” said Thomas.

Fire statistics show around 40% of Christmas tree fires start after Christmas. So how can you minimize the risk? Keep the tree watered, make sure to check wiring for any frays or tears, keep things like space heaters away, and have working smoke detectors.

The best way, though?

“Personally, I know people want to keep them. Since they are a danger, I would recommend getting rid of it as soon as you can,” said Thomas.

That's where the Metro Waste Authority comes in.

“Anyone who uses the Compost It! program, any of the metro suburbs, will have winter collection January second through the 12th," said Trish Radke of the Metro Waste Authority. "You can self-haul it to the Metro Park East Landfill, we do accept trees there. To get rid of it at the curb, you do need to purchase a Compost It! sticker, they're $1.25 each, you can purchase it at your local hardware store or city halls. You just attach it to one of the limbs of the tree and set it at your curb, and it'll be picked up on your regular collection day."

Those in the city still need a sticker, but can put their trees and other compost items out starting now.

The holiday waste will be part of the 30,000 cubic yards of compost the metro creates annually. Last year, between Christmas and the end of January 2017, they collected 280 tons of yard waste and Christmas trees.