Friday, May 22, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Embers can survive for days, weeks, even months in roots and other organic matter in the soil. Bark, stumps, leaves and needles all may continue to slowly burn even when completely buried underground.
Now is the time to take a look at those black patches to see whether there is any smoke. Better yet, spray water on the burned area. If it is still hot, you will see a puff of steam.
If the old burn pile site is beyond the reach of a garden hose, pass your hand an inch or two above the black ground. Feel a little heat? Stir the spot with the point of a shovel and test the air above it again. If the air is cooler, there isn’t a problem. If it’s hotter, it’s time to do a little work.
To fully extinguish embers, turn the soil with a shovel to expose the hot material. Spray it with water, or slosh some on it from a bucket, and turn the embers to get them really wet. Chop up glowing embers and continue to wet them until they no longer smoke and are cool to the touch.
Don’t think that the fire will eventually go out if you just bury it deeper, particularly if the material you’re burying is large. Using a backhoe to bury still-smoking stumps and tree boles may be simply postponing the chore of putting out the fire. And if firefighters need to dig up buried debris to put out embers, they may send you a bill for their heavy-equipment costs.
Call your local fire district or the Oregon Department of Forestry for tips on open burning and how to fully extinguish a burn pile’s embers.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Escaped open burning fires are a leading cause of wildfires in Jackson and Josephine counties during the spring. High temperatures combined with afternoon winds can easily push burn pile and burn barrel fires into nearby dry grass, blackberry bushes and other burnable debris, such as firewood and lumber piles.
Losing control of a backyard burn may result in a citation and a bill for fire suppression costs. And burn only woody debris – cuttings from trees and brush, and dry needles and leaves. Don’t burn garbage, plastic, petroleum products, tires, rubber, animal remains or any material which emits dense smoke or noxious odors.
To keep burn pile and burn barrel fires under control:
- Call the county air quality recorded information lines to find out whether burning is allowed. In Jackson County, the number to call is 776-7007. In Josephine County, call 476-WOOD.
- If your local structural fire district requires a burning permit, apply for one before doing any burning and follow the district’s instructions for open burning safety.
- Make sure the pile is in a place where flames and heat won’t catch adjacent vegetation, structures or other burnable debris on fire. As a rule of thumb, the open space around a burn pile should be twice the distance of the pile’s height.
- Make sure there aren’t overhead wires or branches that will melt or ignite from the heat rising from the burn pile fire. Allow an open space above the pile that is at least three times the height of the pile.
- Check the weather forecast. Don’t burn if windy or unusually hot conditions are predicted.
- Have water, a shovel and a rake close at hand. If you’re running a garden hose to the burn pile site, add enough extra hose to extend at least 25 feet beyond the pile.
- Never leave a debris pile fire unattended.
- Before nightfall, put the fire completely out, and check it again the following day.
- If the fire escapes control, call 9-1-1 immediately.
There are many air-friendly and fire-safe alternatives to burning, such as chipping and composting woody debris. Local waste disposal services have yard debris recycling available at a reasonable cost.
More information about how to burn debris safely is available from fire departments and districts, and wildland fire protection agencies. Also, log onto http://www.rvfpc.com/ for links to local open burning information websites, and the Rogue Valley Fire Prevention Cooperative’s member agencies.