ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) - Don't blame this one on the Grinch. A fire code has toppled a Christmas tree tradition in the southtowns.
The Orchard Park Presbyterian Church was the last holdout in town, the last local church to have a live Christmas tree. But that is against New York State fire code law, and this year the tradition is changing.
Chester Seymour has been the official Christmas tree selector for the church for the nearly 55 years he's been a member of the congregation.
"We got 30 to 40 guys. The tree weighs 800 to 1,000 pounds and they had to carry it in. I mean, they couldn't just slide it. They had to lift it off the trailer, and so on," recalled Seymour.
But this year, the church had to give up a bit of its tradition. NYS law prohibits places where large crowds of people gather, including churches, schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings, from putting up live trees because they are too great a fire hazard.
Orchard Park code enforcement officer Jeffrey Sweet explained, "The rate at which a natural tree will burn, it's incredible. You know, I recommend to everybody to go on YouTube and look at Christmas tree fire videos. It's very, very sobering, what a Christmas tree can do."
It fell to Sweet to play the role of Grinch.
"I had similar resistance with my church a couple years ago. However, after you educate people, they get the point," noted Sweet.
Congregants were more upset about the idea of losing the time they spent together decorating than the live tree itself. As it turns out though, none of that Christmas spirit has been lost.
Church member Meredith Wilson told News 4, "It created this festive atmosphere, actually. It really did. It wasn't like the tree coming in, everyone excited about that, but there was excitement about seeing this take place, take form."
And, now that the tree is up, Wilson added that members love it and find the tree to be gorgeous. And really, the switch has not been so bad for the church. A live tree used to consume five gallons of water a day, and now no one has to worry about watering it. As for the pine scent, Seymour says they're considering placing pine-scented air fresheners around the church to recreate that ambiance.
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