A Fiery Farewell for Christmas Trees in Ashburnham

January 15, 2018 GMT

ASHBURNHAM -- It’s not the traditional way to get rid of a Christmas tree once the season has come and gone, but in Ashburnham, it certainly seems to be a popular one.

Dozens of people braved the cold Sunday afternoon to watch a pyramid of discarded trees go up in flames as the town held its second annual Ashburnham Christmas Tree Bonfire at the Fitchburg Sportsmen’s Club.

“It doesn’t cost much to do this. It’s low-impact,” Ashburnham Economic Development Commission chairman Bill Johnson said. “It’s a great chance for people to come out and skate and enjoy a massive bonfire.

“You put these things together and you get out here and it’s a genuine crapshoot. You hope people come out and enjoy what we’ve done.”

Despite the event’s title, the first townwide bonfire actually occurred two years ago during Ashburnham’s 250th anniversary, Johnson noted. He said the town is hoping to make it a consistent annual event.

“It’s a great way to bring people together and have a good time,” Johnson said.

In addition to watching the Christmas tree pyre go up in flames, there was ice skating on the club’s pond and refreshments available. Originally slated for Saturday, the Ashburnham Economic Development Commission -- which sponsored the event along with the Fitchburg Sportsmen’s Club -- postponed the event for a day due to the cold and wind.

“We’re pleased with the decision to hold off a day,” Johnson said. “It’s a perfect January day. The ice is solid and, even though it’s cold, there’s no rain or wind to deal with.”

The date mattered little to those who attended.

“My kids have been looking forward to this since we heard about it,” Ashburnham resident Sam Lashua said as his children and their friends skated. “It’s a pretty cool thing to see and be part of. The kids are having a great time.”

Once the sun began to set, a propane-tank-fueled blow torch set the pile of trees ablaze, with Economic Development Commission member and Triumph Play Systems owner Jaclyn Wooding doing the honors. Wooding’s company had donated pallets and wood scraps to help build the tree pyramid and ignite it.

“I’ve never done something like this,” Wooding said after torching the trees. “It’s a lot of fun, though.”

Fire department personnel were nearby in the case of a mishap, but things went off perfectly. Johnson anticipated the fire going on for several hours before being extinguished.

“There’s enough oak and cedar inside that pile that it will burn for a while,” Johnson said.

The event also gave the Fitchburg Sportsmen’s Club a chance to showcase a small piece of its 900 acres along Route 119. In addition to gun ranges, the club features several trails for outdoor enthusiasts.