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, Keep Oregon Green, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal urge you to consider chipping or recycling your yard debris. 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 wildfire in Oregon, particularly in the spring and fall when people think it is safe and permissible to burn. In 2016, backyard debris burns that escaped control resulted in 143 wildfires burning 145 acres at a cost of nearly $225,000 to suppress.
A burn pile is less likely to escape control if these simple safety tips are followed:
Call Before You Burn
Burning regulations are not the same in all areas and can vary with weather and fuel conditions. If you’re planning to burn, check with your local ODF district, fire protective association, or air protection authority to learn if there are any current burning restrictions in effect, and whether a permit is required.
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, 4×4 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 till 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.
Burn Only Yard Debris
State regulations prohibit the open burning of any material that creates dense smoke or noxious odors.
Escaped Debris Burns are Costly
State law requires the proper clearing, building, attending and extinguishing of open fires any time of year. A first-time citation carries a $110 fine. 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.
Never use gasoline or other accelerants (flammable or combustible liquids) to start or increase your open fire. Every year, 10 to 15 percent of all burn injuries treated at the Oregon Burn Center in Portland are the result of backyard debris burning.
More tips on wildfire prevention, including campfire safety, use of motorized equipment, and fire-resistant landscaping can be found on Keep Oregon Green’s website, www.keeporegongreen.org