SOLVANG, Calif. - For three decades now, Solvang has ended its Holiday Julefest by turning hundreds of used Christmas trees into kindling for an impressive fire.
The 30th tree burn brought more than a thousand people to the city on Friday night, with hundreds coming to retire their used, dried out Christmas trees throughout the day.
Once the tree burn began, Santa Barbara County Fire kept an eye on things and shared a message about fire safety.
“We want everybody to realize how quickly the fire can grow on a Christmas tree,” Santa Barbara County Fire’s Mike Eliason said. “We’ve got a captive audience, so we’re gonna teach ‘em a little bit about fire safety and fire behavior.”
Eliason said people should keep their trees wet each holiday season, avoid putting electrical cords under any rugs, put no more than three strands of lights on the trees and keep them away from the window, where they could dry out more quickly.
He also said that they should be disposed of as soon as they are no longer necessary. Friday’s tree burn has become a tradition in the Santa Ynez Valley and a safe way to dispose of a Christmas tree.
Before the pile of trees was set on fire, local boy scouts retired used American flags by burning them.
“All around the valley here, we get tons of flags that people hand in through all sorts of different programs,” said Calan Williams of Troop No. 42 out of Buellton. “We can properly dispose of them in a ceremony like this.”
Although this is a tradition in the Valley, many from out of town came to watch the fire.
“Seeing it for the first time, I’m ready to come back again,” said Marilyn Pennix, visiting from Orange County with her grandson, Austin. “It’s awesome.”
“We never get to stumble on something like this usually,” said Sam Kim, who came from North Carolina. “I mean, this fire’s huge. So to see something this crazy was really cool to see.”
Fires usually stoke fear on the Central and South Coast. But on this night every year, fire brings the community together.
“I’ve been here almost every year,” said local Ben Stuerman. “As a member of the Valley, it is so fun. The fire is just so cool to watch it all go up in flames… the heat just feels nice and when you look up, all those sparks just going up in the night. It’s just awesome.”