WHITTIER – Just when you thought high gasoline prices had done their worst, several vendors say rising fuel costs also mean you probably will pay more this year for a Christmas tree. Christmas tree vendors getting an early start to their seasonal sales Tuesday said they have had to boost tree prices by anywhere from a dollar or two for smaller noble and Douglas firs to as much as $11 more for the larger nobles. “The prices have been going up yearly, and we have always absorbed the cost, but because of the high cost of fuel, we will have to pass a slight increase in cost along to our customers,” said Kris Yeno, manager of Big Top Trees 2 at Lambert Road and Greenleaf Avenue in Whittier. Tree retailers say their fuel costs for transporting Christmas trees from farms in Washington and Oregon to Southern California is costing them more this year. A better deal might be had at large retail chain stores like Home Depot on Washington Boulevard in Whittier, which started selling trees in the parking lot this week. Home Depot is selling Douglas firs at prices ranging from $22 to $33, and nobles for $25 to $90. That’s because the company was able to negotiate with tree farms to keep costs down, said Kathryn Gallagher, spokeswoman for Home Depot. Christmas tree purchases are expected to remain steady this season, compared to last year. In 2004, consumers bought 27.1 million Christmas trees nationwide, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. About 8 percent of households will buy artificial trees this Christmas, the association projects. Prices are driven by many local variables, so there is no way to gauge national price trends, according to an association official. James Noonan, who opened Thunder Mountain Trees at Greenleaf Avenue and Telegraph Road in Whittier on Tuesday, said he is selling Douglas firs for $20 to $35 and nobles for $40 to $70. “For me, it’s more like an experiment to see how the tree experience goes,” Noonan said. “Obviously I need to pay some bills, because it wasn’t free to do this. But I also want to donate some trees to the needy. Life is too short not to help out.” Staff writer Kevin Smith contributed to this story. [email protected] [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals As a result, consumers can expect to pay $26 to $69 for Douglas firs at Yeno’s tree lot. Last year’s prices ranged from $24 to $69, she said. A 6-foot Douglas fir will cost $32.95 at Big Top Trees 2, up from $29 last year. A noble fir that cost $46.95 last year will cost $47.95 this year. Want a 10-foot noble? They are going for $120 this year at Big Top, up from $109 a year ago. The same situation was true at a Christmas tree lot on Rosemead Boulevard in Pico Rivera, where higher gasoline prices increased the cost of transporting 1,000 trees from Oregon, lot operator Gracie Gallegos said. “With the high cost of fuel to bring them down here in trucks being what it is, that price will then be attached to the trees,” she said, adding that prices for a noble fir at her lot range from $60 to $90 and from $25 to $70 for a Douglas.