Check the Warnings Before You Burn

Follow the burning guidelines to avoid the environmental damages a fire can cause.

| March 2018

  • avoid bonfires for environment
    Keep fires small, avoid bonfires that can get out of control.
    Photo by Pixabay/12019
  • how to safely build fires, avoid bonfires when windy
    “Building Wood Fires,” by Annette McGivney, guides reader through building fires indoors and out.
    Courtesy of Countryman Press

  • avoid bonfires for environment
  • how to safely build fires, avoid bonfires when windy

Building Wood Fires: Techniques and Skills for Stoking the Flames Both Indoors and Out (Countryman Know How) (Countryman Press, 2018), explores different fireplaces to keep your house warm in the winter. McGivney shares recipes meant to be cooked over an open flame. Use the step-by-step instruction to build your own fire pit and cook the recipes in your own backyard. Find this excerpt in Chapter 4, “Backyard Fire.”

To Burn or Not to Burn

There are few places in the United States these days where the environment is moist and stable enough to safely have a wood- burning fire any time of year. Investigating local restrictions should be the first line of action in deciding whether or not to have a fire in your backyard. A call to the municipal fire department or a search on the city’s website should produce the information you need. However, if you are in a rural area that is unregulated or you simply can’t locate information about whether or not it is OK to have a fire on a particular day, here are some guidelines:

Red Flag Warning

This term is used by the National Weather Service when fire weather forecasters determine there are “extreme burning conditions” in a particular geographic region. The criteria for a red flag warning involves an area that has experienced a dry spell of a week or more, or the conditions occur during a dry time of year such as fall. The other parameters are: a sustained wind speed of 15 mph or greater; a relative humidity of 25 percent or less, and a temperature greater than 75°F. Wood burning fires should not take place on red flag days. And even natural gas or propane fires can be unruly in extreme wind with flames going out or licking items nearby.

National Fire Danger Rating System

This set of indices used by fire managers on all U.S. Forest Service lands is an assessment of that day and the next day’s fire danger in specific regions. While these ratings help land managers with recreation planning and anticipating fire hazards, the system is also handy for recreationists on or near the public lands. The rating is likely familiar to anyone who has camped in a Forest Service campground and seen the Smokey Bear sign displaying the fire danger level for that day. An interactive map giving the daily ratings can be found on the U.S. Forest Service Wildland Fire Assessment System website.

Follow This Guide for Interpreting the Forest Service Fire Ratings:

Low –  Fuels do not ignite easily from small embers but a more intense heat source, such as lightning, may start fires.

Moderate –  Fires can start from most accidental causes. Most wood fires will spread slowly to moderately, although they will burn quickly through dry grasses. Fires are not likely to become serious and are easy to control.

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