LAURINBURG —The only thing brighter than the fire from the Laurinburg’s annual tree burning, were the eyes of the young attendees who watched the blaze light up the night.
More than 50 people gathered Friday night at Legion Park for the city’s disposal of residents’ Christmas trees. The event was scheduled for earlier in the month, but was postponed because of the weather.
The Sanitation Department began collecting live Christmas trees after the holiday right up until the day of the bonfire. The event is in its fourth year.
The pile of burning Christmas trees made Friday night’s brisk 43- degree weather feel comfortable. The smell of the pine trees and the haze of the smoke drifted across much of the city.
Laurinburg Fire Chief Randy Gibson said the idea for the tree burning came by trying to get people to dispose Christmas trees before dry trees become a major fire hazard. But the event has turned into something more than just a way to prevent an accidental fire.
The fire department provided marshmallows and coat hangers for people to roast over smaller bonfires, while some families brought graham crackers and chocolate with some even bringing hot dogs to roast. Firefighters made sure the viewers kept a safe distance while keeping the fire contained in its small area.
“We like to encourage folks to come out as a meet and greet,” Gibson said. “Talk to firefighters and to see our equipment. We’re not often in the community like this so it’s a good way for them to get to know us.”
Many of the families waited anxiously for the tree burning to begin. They gathered their marshmallows and waited.
“What time is it?” one child asked, “It has to be 6!”
The pile of trees dwarfed the firefighters as they stood next to it, thought the exact number or weight of the trees wasn’t known.
“I wish we could go just run into that!” a little girl said about the pile of pine trees that sat in the center of the field.
When the fire finally got started a little after 6. It took less than a minute for the pile to become completely engulfed in the flames, proving what Chief Gibson said about how dry trees can be a major fire hazard.
“I just like that it’s something that the community can do together,” said resident Lauren Laviner, “It’s family oriented and I always tell my kids that it makes Christmas last a little bit longer.”
By 7:30 the flames had started to calm down so the fire fighters began bringing shovels of the wood to start making the smaller bonfires for everyone to begin roasting marshmallows. There were around 10 small bonfires around the bigger fire for people to gather around.
Many of the participants were offering up the food they had brought to others, such as extra hot dogs to roast. Many of the adults talked together as the kids ran around the park playing with one another.
The fire had simmered down to embers two hours after it first went up. When the cold began setting in again is when people began to leave. The firemen remained to ensure everything was completely cared for.
Gibson said he hopes that moving the event to Fridays will encourage more people to attend.
“We’re glad with the people who participate in the event and who come and get to know us,” Gibson stated.
Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171