Prevent Brush Fires: Conduct open burning early

Deputy State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said, “If you plan to burn brush this season, do so early, while there is still snow on the ground on a day when the winds are low.” Open burning season, in communities where it is allowed is January 15 to May 1.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said. “Every spring, wind and weather conditions combine to elevate the hazards of brush fires. Once the snow melts it reveals dried grass, leaves, and fallen branches. Warm winds, low humidity and bright sunshine combine to make them tinder dry. This combustible debris provides the fuel for brush and woods fires.” He added, “We hope that the late melting snow-pack will help reduce the conditions for brush fires this year.”

Permit Required to Burn Brush; But Watch the Wind
“You need a permit from the local fire warden, usually the local fire chief, to burn brush and burning can only take place when both air quality and fire safety conditions are acceptable,” said Deputy Ostroskey. “Weather conditions can change rapidly, so watch the wind and be prepared to extinguish your open burning. Use common sense and don’t wait for the fire department to contact you that is has become unsafe to burn,” said Ostroskey, “Sudden wind change is how most open burning gets out of control.”

Don’t Delay a Call for Help
If the fire should get out of control, call the fire department immediately. “Once started, winds fan the flames and fire can spread faster than a person can run,” said Ostroskey. “Use the utmost caution to prevent injury to yourself or family members or any damage by fire to your home,” he added.

Brush Fires Peak in April and May
Springtime usually means brush fires for the Massachusetts fire service. April is the peak of the Massachusetts brush fire season as illustrated in this graph. On average the Common-wealth experiences 107% more brush fires in April than it does in its next highest month, May. People conducting illegal burning, or who allow a fire to get out of control, may be held liable for costs of extinguishing a fire, fined, and even imprisoned (MGL c.48 s.13).

How to Safely Burn Brush:

  • Between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. with a permit from the fire warden;
  • When air is circulating well but without high winds, and the Daily Air Quality Forecast – MassAir Online (also available at the MassDEP Open Burning Hotline at 617-556-1021) is “good” in your community’s Massachusetts Fire & Incident Support (ISU) Response District.
  • On your own property as close as possible to the source of material(s) to be burned; No less than 75 feet away from all dwellings and away from utility lines;
  • Fire suppression tools are handy: Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose charged with water, and a shovel and rake close by; and
  • The fire is constantly monitored by an adult. Leaving burning unattended is a reason to revoke burning permits.
  • Use paper and kindling to start a fire and add progressively larger pieces of wood. Parts of a leftover Christmas tree may also be used.
  • Never use gasoline, kerosene or any other flammable liquid to start a fire! The risk of personal injury in these cases is very high.
  • Burn one small pile at a time and slowly add to it. This will help keep the fire from getting out of control.
  • Burn the fire down to the coals, drown them with water, spread them out, then drown them again.

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