Tips for safely burning brush, slash
October 23, 2009
The leaves are falling, and the days are getting cool. After a summer of cutting beetle trees, many landowners are getting anxious about getting their brush piles burned. This article covers some basic information that will help you burn your brush or slash safely. The term “brush” is often used interchangeably with “slash.” Slash can be defined as the branches, tops and other woody material left behind after logging and other forest treatments.
There are two goals to keep in mind when burning your brush pile: burn the pile safely, and burn the pile as completely and efficiently as possible.
Perhaps the most important safety tip is to wait to burn your pile until there is adequate snow cover (recommended minimum of 4 to 6 inches) and when the snow is likely to stay around. This will minimize the chance of the fire escaping. Locate your pile in an opening, away from trees and brush. Wear fire-resistant clothing, and have a safety plan in case something goes wrong.
The size and composition of your pile is important. You would like the pile to be as high as it is wide, if possible. It is important to keep nonvegetative materials out of the pile. Dirt, in particular, can really affect how a pile burns.
Propane weed burners are an efficient and generally safe way to ignite piles. Never use gasoline. It is always a good idea to light a small portion of the pile as a test burn to see if the pile will burn well and the smoke will disperse. Try to light the pile on all sides, starting downwind and working your way upwind.
Managing the smoke from your burn is an important and often overlooked concern. It is just good manners to make sure you don’t smoke out your neighbors or cause a safety concern on nearby roads. Check the weather before you burn to ensure good smoke dispersal. Snowstorms provide good dispersal, for example. Midmorning is usually a good time to light piles because the morning inversion is starting to lift. Re-pile the unburned fuels when the fire has cooled enough to allow you to do so; this will help avoid lingering smoke and make for a cleaner burn.
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Contact your fire district to find out about permit requirements for your fire. In some cases, a fire permit and a smoke permit are required. Agricultural burns generally are considered exempt from these requirements, but you should always make a courtesy call to Routt County Dispatch at 879-1110 before you burn.
It is also recommended to rehabilitate the burn area the season after your burn.
The burn will typically sterilize an area of the soil, making it susceptible to weeds. The soil in and around the burn should be stirred to re-inoculate the soil with helpful micro-flora and fauna. Complete the rehabilitation by seeding the area with a native grass seed mix.