SOLVANG, Calif. -

A quarter century ago, volunteer firefighters came up with an idea to prevent residents from burning their Christmas trees in a dangerous way.

City Council member Hans Duus was a firefighter then, and remembers creating a bonfire made of trees across the street from Fire Station 30.

The event was soon moved to vacant property next to the Mission Ines.

On Friday night, about 1,000 people crowded around a growing pile of Christmas trees.

Before setting them on fire, Santa Barbara County firefighters burned several types of trees separately to demonstrate their flammability. Even an old fir tree covered in water quickly went up in smoke.

After the demonstration ,fire crews ignited the entire pile of trees.

Spectators said it was much hotter than they expected and within minutes, thet were forced to move back.

Mayor Jim Richardson said the bonfire was the perfect ending to Solvang's Julefest, which began with the city's Christmas tree lighting in early December.

Firefighters stood nearby to make sure the flames didn't get out of control and they will continue to watch it closely until every ember is doused.

Crews say the ash will make good mulch for people growing their own trees.

Slideshow: Solvang Christmas Tree Burn

POSTED: 04:59 PM PST Jan 11, 2014    UPDATED: 04:41 PM PST Jan 13, 2014 
Photos Courtesy: Logan Deats (3, 4) and Gary Lambert (5-19)
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