Each year, thousands of acres of forests are damaged or destroyed by uncontrolled wildfires. Some are random acts of nature. Human hands intentionally set others. However, many are the results of careless open burning practices. Many of us in the Northeast think of the wildfire phenomenon as being exclusive to the Midwest and Western states. However, this year’s unseasonably warm weather and lack of snowfall during the winter present conditions that are perfect for rapid-fire development.
So let’s say you have decided to burn some brush this season. First you must obtain an Open Burning Permit from the local Fire Department. In Mattapoisett, these permits are available for a $10 fee and must be applied for in person. Once you have obtained the permit, the next step would be to prepare the area in which you plan to arrange your burn pile. With proper site preparation and forethought, you should enjoy burning brush with reasonable safety. Taking the time to plan an outdoor burning area, preparing the burn site and equipping yourself with the basic fire suppression tools before lighting the match will dramatically reduce the chance of your burn pile getting out of control and becoming a 9-1-1 call.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP) is the state agency that regulates open burning permits from January 15 through April 30. Each day the Mass DEP sends confirmation to local Fire Departments allowing for the daily open burning of brush. Conditions that may prevent open burning from occurring on any particular day include: high winds, no wind / stagnant air and heavy fog. High winds pose a threat to potential fire spread while low winds do not allow for proper smoke disbursement.
With a valid Open Burning Permit, the following materials are allowed:
•Brush, cane, driftwood, and forestry debris from other than commercial or industrial land clearing operations.
•Materials associated with the pruning of trees, infected limbs, and agricultural pruning.
Materials NOT allowed statewide:
•Leaves, grass, hay, stumps and household trash
•Construction materials and debris
•Commercial and/or industrial land clearing
When you are looking to begin burning, never use gasoline, kerosene or any other flammable liquid to start the fire. The risk of personal injury is far too great when you use an accelerant. Use paper and kindling to start the fire and slowly add brush, maintaining control of the pile. Be mindful of children and pets, always keeping them at a safe distance.
Once the fire has started, you must remain with the burn pile until it is completely out. Be sure to have rakes, a garden hose, and an extinguisher in the area you are burning. It is also a good idea to have one or two five-gallon buckets of water as well. If at any point, you feel the fire is beyond your control, immediately call 9-1-1 and request the Fire Department’s assistance.
Is it really out? An out of control fire can rise unexpectedly from the ashes of an outdoor burn that homeowners thought they had extinguished. Even when a fire stops smoking and appears to be out, the onset of wind may re-kindle it and quickly propel into a brush fire. To truly ensure the pile is out, drown it with water while turning over the ashes. Repeat this several times until the ashes are completely saturated.
Please remember to be fire safe this burn season and help protect your community from damaging brush fires.
These and other Fire Safety Tips can be found on the Mattapoisett Fire Department web page at www.mattapoisett.net. Any additional questions regarding Fire Safety, contact Lt. Patrick Saltmarsh at 508-758-4150 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org