Burn backyard debris safely

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May is Wildfire Awareness Month and the ideal time to reduce the excess vegetation around your home that could pose a wildfire threat. As you begin spring clean-up, if burning is the only option to dispose of woody material, fire officials urge landowners to follow safe burning practices.

Escaped debris burns are the leading human cause of wildfires, particularly in the spring and fall when people think it is safe and permissible to burn.

A burn pile is less likely to escape control if these simple safety tips are followed:

• Know the weather forecast– Never burn on dry or windy days. These conditions make it easy for open burning to spread out of control.

• Clear a 10-foot radius around your pile — Also make sure there are no tree branches or power lines above.

• Keep your burn pile small — A large burn may cast hot embers long distances. Small piles, 4-by-4 feet, are recommended. Add debris in small amounts as existing material is consumed.

• Always have water and fire tools on site — When burning, have a charged water hose, bucket of water, and shovel and dirt nearby to extinguish the fire. Drown the pile with water, stir the coals, and drown again, repeating ‘til the fire is DEAD out.

• Stay with the fire until it is completely out — Monitoring a debris burn continually from start to finish until dead out is required by state law, to ensure that any escaped sparks or embers can be extinguished quickly. Go back and recheck old burn piles, as they can retain heat for several weeks and then rekindle when the weather warms and wind begins to blow.

• Never use gasoline or other accelerants (flammable or combustible liquids) to start or increase your open fire.

• Burn only yard debris — Environmental quality regulations prohibit the open burning of any material that creates dense smoke or noxious odors.

• Escaped debris burns are costly — State laws require the proper clearing, building, attending and extinguishing of open fires any time of year and come with a sizable fine if not in compliance. If your debris burn spreads out of control, you are responsible for the cost of fire suppression and very likely the damage to neighboring properties. This can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.

If you burn debris, use common sense and follow safety rules. This can prevent most wildfires caused by burning debris and keep lives and property safe.

These tips brought to you by the CSKT Division of Fire, Fire Prevention Program.

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