Burn period unlikely to be extended

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – Spring is now officially here, but a winter storm is set to wallop portions of Massachusetts today and it may be hard to believe that a little over a month is left of the permitted burning season, which concludes at the end of April.

The period for permitted burning of brush in the city is set by state law and Jennifer Mieth, a public information officer with the State Department of Fire Services, said that extended the deadline past May 1 is unlikely.“The state law can only be changed by statute,” she said. “The state’s Department of Environmental Protection has said that there may even be days during the burn period in which air quality won’t be conducive for burning at all.”

According to the Department of Fire Services, in most of the state’s municipalities, with the exception of 22 communities which ban the practice entirely, homeowners are allowed to burn brush, cane, driftwood and forestry debris, so long as the open burning takes place with the permission of the local fire department between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and when air is circulating well but without high winds.

Not all plant matter can be burned and burning grass, hay, leaves and stumps is prohibited. As to whether a longer season would be beneficial for residents, Westfield Deputy Fire Chief Patrick Egloff dismisses this notion.“When there’s snow on the ground, that when we want burning,” he said. “We like to see people burning now, because fire won’t travel if there’s snow on the ground. But the chances are that the best outside burning days are behind us.”

Egloff added that obtaining a burning permit is free to all residents, and that they must call into the Fire Department after 9 a.m. to see if the state has approved the conditions for burning on that day. Under state law, a burn may occur no less than 75 feet away from all dwellings, on your own property and as close as possible to the source of materials to be burned. The fire must also be “constantly monitored” by an adult, as leaving burning unattended can lead to the revocation of a burn permit. Fire suppression tools, such as a fire extinguisher or garden hose charged with water, and a shovel and rake, must be kept close by.

The Department of Fire Services also advocates the use of paper and kindling to start a fire for the burning of brush, and for the addition of progressively larger pieces of wood. Parts of a leftover Christmas tree may even be used in the fire. Using gasoline, kerosene or any other flammable liquid to start a fire is discouraged by the Department, as “the risk of personal injury in these cases is very high.”

The Department of Fire Services also advises the burning of one small pile at a time, and gradually adding to it, which they say will help keep the fire from getting out of control. Location of the pile is key and the Department of Fire Services advises the selection of a spot away from such things as utility lines. They also state that you should allow a fire to burn down to its coals, at which time one should drown them with water, spread them out, and then drown them again to ensure they are out.

Media Credit: The Westfield News

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