Summer heat wave impacts Christmas tree farms in Western Washington

The impacts of the heat wave in Western Washington over the summer are showing up this winter, especially for those hoping to find the perfect Christmas tree.

Some tree farmers claimed to have lost about 20% of their inventory, causing them to close early for the season.

The owners of Pfaff Christmas Tree Farm in Auburn said they spent a lot of money to protect and save the majority of their trees for this holiday season. However, the hot weather could have possibly ruined thousands of future Christmas trees.

"I haven’t had them burned back like that before. They’re still alive, but we’ll see how they do this year," said Erik Pfaff, co-owner of the tree farm.

Several families visit the farm every year, including Irene Cervantes and her son Michael. She said every year, they know exactly which tree is right for them.

"What we look for is something that will talk to us. And this is definitely saying take me home, take me with you," said Cervantes.

Pfaff said the reason customers have a choice at all this season is thanks to an expensive water bill protecting trees from the summer’s heat wave. He said normally it would cost roughly $200–$300 per month to water the trees. During the drought, however, Pfaff said the water bill soared to roughly $1,100 per month.

"We were watering over-the-top and got the ground wet before it happened. So, I think that helped," said Pfaff.

The extra water may not have been enough to save several thousands of his seedlings. Pfaff said the seedlings are supposed to grow into Christmas trees over the next seven to 10 years. However, they were severely sunburned during the triple digit temperatures.

"It’s kind of almost like a blow torch hit it and burned the top new growth off it. We have a little bit of growth underneath, and I’m going to experiment and see if they’ll come back," said Pfaff.

Pfaff said he could find out by spring time if the seedlings can be saved, but fears there may be a significant loss. This could ultimately impact tree inventory for future holiday seasons. Pfaff said he has never seen a burn this bad, but said at least this year his farm was lucky.

"I’ve been to other farms, though, and they were burned quite badly on one side of the tree. Seemed to get burned worse than the others," said Pfaff.

As he waits to learn the fate of the future Christmas trees, Pfaff and his team help customers pick the best one for this holiday season.

"They are very excited when they come back with a nice tree. And I’m happy for them that they were able to find a nice tree themselves," said Lyubov Belyavskaya, a tree farm employee.

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