It was pouring rain late Sunday morning but that didn't stop B.J. and Elisha Davis of Lawrence Township from heading out to cut their Christmas tree at the Caywood Christmas Tree Farm Caywood Road near Marietta.
With bow saw and tarp in hand, the couple braved the wet weather and climbed the hillside where they sorted through the farm's row upon row of live pine trees, finally settling on a likely candidate.
Elisha did the cutting.
Lawrence Township residents Elisha and B.J. Davis check out their newly-felled Christmas tree at the Caywood Christmas Tree Farm on a rainy Sunday morning.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
"This is our second year cutting a live tree," said B.J. "And she likes to tell everyone that she's the one who cut it."
Elisha admitted it took a little more time than anticipated to saw through the 4-inch trunk, but it was worth the effort.
Soon the tree was down on the tarp and the couple was hauling it back to their car.
Special to the Times
Officials advise residents to be fire smart while decking the halls this holiday season.
The flammability of a dry Christmas tree and a tree that has been watered regularly can be the difference between life and death. According to research conducted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), between 2005 and 2009 fire departments across the country responded to an average of 240 home fires that started as Christmas tree fires. Of the 240 fires, an average of 13 deaths and 27 injuries occurred.
The NFPA makes a point about the importance of addressing electrical problems, saying one of every home Christmas tree fires is caused by an electrical issue. Christmas lights will have a tag on them to let the purchaser know they are safe, said Parkersburg Fire Department chief inspector Capt. Tim Flinn.
"Check the wiring every year," advised Flinn. "If you know which circuit you feed your lights on, you can flip the tripped breaker."
When picking a live tree, choose one with fresh, green needles that don't fall off when touched, officials advised.
Officials remind residence of the importance of replacing lights and reading the manufacturer's instructions for number of LED strands to connect together safely.
Although Christmas tree fires are not common, officials said when they do occur they tend to be more serious. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in 73 percent of the fires involving holiday or decorative lights. On average, one of every 18 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death compared to an average of one death per 141 total reported home structure fires throughout the year.
Always turn off Christmas lights before going to bed or leaving home, officials added. A heat source too close to a tree causes roughly one in every six Christmas tree fires, according to statistics.
Be sure to add water to the trunk of a live tree daily and make sure it is not blocking an exit in case of an emergency.
People who anticipate adding lights to their residence and have not done so should do so when weather conditions are safe.
"Don't get on the roof in icy conditions," Flinn added.
The NFPA advises never decorating a live tree with candles. The top three days for home candle fires last year were Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
"I always wanted to go out and cut a Christmas tree when we were kids, but we were never able to do that," she said. "So now we're trying to make this our family tradition."
The Davises weren't alone in their quest for a Christmas tree Sunday.
Joe and Rachel Colyer of Marietta brought their children, Riley, 2, and Benjamin, 3 months, to the tree farm.
"When I was young my parents always had artificial trees, but we've had live trees at our house for the last four years now," Joe said as Rachel and the children inside the car and out of the rain.
"I prefer a taller tree, too," he said. "We usually try to get one at least 7 feet high every year."
Bob and Helen Morrison, who own and operate the Caywood Christmas Tree Farm, said they get requests for tall trees every year, so they keep some 15- to 20-footers available.
"We sold a 14-foot tree last week to a guy from New Martinsville (W.Va.)," he said. "He had recently added a room to his home with a high cathedral ceiling."
The man told Bob that half of his family would trim the tree, and the other half would remove the trimmings after the holiday.
"When you think about it, that's kind of a nice family Christmas tradition," Helen added.
She said the farm sells about 500 to 600 Christmas trees-both live and cut trees-every year, and people began "tagging" their trees as early as the first of November this year.
Customers can pick out a tree they like on the farm and tie a tag on it, reserving the tree until closer to the holiday when they come back and cut it.
Les and Terri Futrell of Marietta were among those braving Sunday's weather to tag one of the Caywood trees.
"Both of us grew up with live trees at Christmas," Terri said. "When I was young we used to cut a tree from my grandfather's farm."
She said the family has three artificial trees that begin to go up the day after Thanksgiving.
But they also like to come here and get a live one.
"We tag our tree now because if we wait until closer to Christmas there may not be a tree left," Les said.
He said one of the artificial trees is the "sports tree," trimmed with ornaments from their favorite teams.
A purple tree is dedicated to a Barbie doll theme each year, Terri said, and the third artificial tree is decorated only with golden ornaments.
But the Futrells save the live tree to decorate with their son Justin, a student at Cornell College in Iowa, and daughter Jordan, who attends High Point University in North Carolina. Both are coming home for Christmas.
When the live tree is decorated, Terri said each member of the family contributes from his or her own box of favorite ornaments that have been collected over the years.
It's also peak tree sales season for the Holiday Christmas Tree Farm at 2682 Veto Road near Vincent.
Holiday farm staff member Joe Dennis said a lot of their regular customers have been picking out trees since Thanksgiving.
"Business has been a little slower lately, but there's an extra week before Christmas this year, so it will pick up closer to the holiday," he said.
The Holiday farm trees are already cut or dug and located near the road to make picking out a tree more convenient for customers.
"We sell quite a few cut blue spruce trees, but most of our live dug trees are white pine," Dennis said.
He said many people prefer the dug trees because they can be planted after Christmas. And cut trees are often popular for the fragrant scent they give off during the holidays.