Firefighters and park rangers waited shivering till 6 p.m. exactly before they lit a stack of spent Christmas trees at the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park, setting out s'mores supplies while they waited.
People began arriving just as the firefighters readied their torch. JL and Lisa Parker, along with their kids Isabell, Wyatt and Cody, pulled into the parking lot just as the gasoline was being poured on the pile of trees. The Parkers were the only family in attendance, which park Manager Joni Hawley attributed to the cold weather.
"We expected about 18 to 20 people," said Hawley. Despite the low interest, her goal is to expand the event into a full day. She said she is looking for volunteers to help her organize an event that draws people from throughout the community.
"I'm thinking of having a snowman contest, serving food and playing games," said Hawley. "But we don't have the manpower currently."
The volunteer firefighters got the show on the road and lit the pile of Christmas trees. Hawley said fire is one of the better ways to dispose of a Christmas tree as long as it is done responsibly with firefighters present. She said most people throw them away and leave it to garbage collectors to deal with them.
The fire lit quickly and was soon blazing. Larry Garey, park ranger and soon-to-be North Custer Rural Fire District chief, said Christmas trees can be a fire hazard if they aren't watered regularly. Trees started arriving in the lot more than a week before the bonfire, meaning some were brittle, dry kindling by last Friday night.
"That's what happens when you don't water them," said Garey as thousands of pine needles caught fire within seconds.
After the fire burned for several minutes a firefighter took a shovel and separated a pile of embers from the main fire. The Parkers took their cue and readied their s'more sticks. Lisa said they heard about the event from one of their employees at Kimble Oil and thought it would be a fun outing. JL said he personally "came for the fire, but stayed for the s'mores."