By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER
As holiday revelers remove garlands and lights from their trees, local reservoir-dwelling fish hope the pines and firs taken from houses above water could become homes for them below.
That's just one reason Tuolumne and Calaveras County residents are encouraged to recycle Christmas trees this year. Drop stations in both counties will accept trees through January.
In some cases, trees will be tossed into New Hogan Reservoir.
"They basically sink to the floor of the reservoir and become fish habitat, and it's obviously something the fishermen love," said Rob Houghton, deputy director of public works for Calaveras County.
Other trees are chipped and turned into mulch or compost or are burned for power. Recycling them saves room in landfills and reduces air pollution from burn piles.
Fire officials strongly encourage tree recycling, Tuolumne County Fire Marshal Kary Hubbard said, because it prevents devastating fires that could start with burning branches in refuse piles or fireplaces.
"These trees are really dry and they will basically explode into a flame," Hubbard said.
Burning needles are so fine, they commonly float away from fireplace flues and into houses potentially igniting whatever they land on.
In Tuolumne County, Burns Refuse Service, Cal Sierra Disposal and Moore Bros. Scavenger will pick up trees placed along regular curbside garbage collection routes.
All decorations must be removed, and trees must be cut into segments smaller than 4 feet to fit in the trucks. Flocked trees will not be accepted.
Burns Refuse Service will pick up trees in East Sonora, Tuolumne and Standard from Jan. 6 through 10 on regular trash collection days. Trees should be bundled.
Cal Sierra Disposal will pick up trees in Columbia, Sonora, Jamestown and along Highway 108 corridor the entire month of January. Bundling is not required.
Moore Bros. Scavenger customers should set trees out by 7 a.m. Jan. 14 for pickup. Bundling is not required.