MERCED -- The city of Merced is reminding residents to properly dispose of Christmas trees, which are a potential fire hazard.
"They're combustible as they dry out," said Don Rowe, battalion chief for the Merced Fire Department. "We recommend removing them from the home as soon as possible."
City trash collectors do not pick up Christmas trees from the curb, according to the Public Works Department. Trees must be placed inside garbage or the green waste bins. And the lids must close or the bins will not be emptied.
If residents compost their trees, all ornaments, tinsel, flocking or other inorganic material must be removed, said Monique Gama of Public Works.
"We've been doing it this way for quite some time, so it's not too often that we have problems," she said. "Sometimes the drivers let people know."
Average-size trees should fit easily into the green compost bins when cut into 4-foot-long segments, said city spokesman Mike Conway.
"Most people have been able to get out of the habit of putting them down at the curbside," he said. "You still occasionally see a few on the curbside, but most people know."
In several instances last year, trees were left on the curb and eventually subject to arson, Rowe said.
"It's sporadic but it does happen," he said. "People assume that Christmas trees are going to be picked up and they sit out. The longer they sit out there the more they're subject to people playing with matches."
The majority of Christmas tree fires happen outdoors, but they can also occur indoors, according to officials.
Right before Christmas, a family in Merced was forced to flee their home after an electrical fire ignited the family's tree, leading to about $25,000 in damage to the structure. Firefighters contained the blaze in about 30 minutes. No one was hurt.
Christmas trees can also be disposed of at a Merced County Regional Landfill.
Billy Wright Landfill is at 17173 South Billy Wright Road in Los Banos. The landfill can be contacted at (209) 826-1163. It is open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m to noon Saturday.
Highway 59 Landfill is at 7040 N. State Highway 59 in Merced. The landfill can be contacted at (209) 723-4481. It is open from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.
There's no refuse pickup today, according to city officials.
Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.