Remembering when the Christmas tree at the Grand Californian Hotel caught fire


Disney's Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree on Main St., at Disneyland

Like most of us, Disneyland no longer uses a real Christmas Tree, on Main St.  They switched to a giant sixty food artificial tree in 2008.  A cast member told me this weekend that the switch was due to the time it took to put the lights on the real trees.  Now they store the artificial tree in a big warehouse and it is a lot quicker to deploy it, although it still takes a few days.

These artificial trees are not, by the way, fireproof.  Back in 2005 a similar tree went up in flames, at 3 am, at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, forcing a mass evacuation of thousands of guests.  I know, as I showed up the very next day to oversee the safety of the restoration workers, from American Technologies, who cleaned up the mess. 

Restoration at the Grand Californian

We faced quite a challenge as the sprinklers and the firemen had poured a lot of water onto the Christmas tree.  We set up portable dehumidifiers and brought carpenters to help replace the center portion of the wooden floor that was beyond repair.  We did save most of the floor, by dehumidifying it.

To reach the ceiling we had to build a giant scaffolding system, and we also used a big boom lift.  The soot from the fire scorched the rocks in the big fireplace and clung to the walls all around the area.  The tough thing was trying to work around the guests, who were allowed to stay.  They included a college football team!

Scaffolding at the Grand Californian

I stayed there until the job was done.  We finished on New Year’s Eve and as we pulled out the party rolled in.  It was pretty unbelievable.

The fire was caused by an electrical short in the lights on the tree.

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