Burning Question: Safely Incinerate Trash and Debris at Home

Reader Contribution by Monica White
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The more self-sufficient our home lives become, the more need we have to manage our homestead trash efficiently. If you already burn your trash regularly or are considering doing so, make sure that you’re going about it safely. What follows, are a few important safety tips that you can use to help keep your property safe.

  • Before burning, check conditions and your local weather forecast . Make sure that conditions are neither windy or dry.
  • Make sure that there’s no restrictions for your area.
  • You may also need a permit . Make sure that you’re burning the right materials.
  • You are permitted to burn vegetation growing on your property, unless local ordinances specify otherwise.
  • Plastics, tires and household trash are not recommended for burning . Some local ordinances may prohibit these items from being burned.
  • If using a metal burn barrel make sure that the barrel is 100% metal,  properly constructed and equipped. Meaning, the barrel is fully intact, with at least three, evenly-spaced, 3-inch metal screen vents coming up the side of the barrel (from bottom to top). The barrel should also have a metal top, with metal screen enclosure.
  • Look up – There should be no: power lines, tree limbs, buildings, structures, vehicles or equipment near the burn site.
  • Look around – There should be a vertical clearance at least three times the height of the burn pile. A 10-foot radius, formed of dirt or gravel, should radiate out from the burn pile, forming a complete perimeter surrounding the burn pile.
  • Keep the entire perimeter area surrounding the burn pile watered down and always keep a shovel handy nearby.
  • Keep the burn pile small and manageable, adding more debris as the pile becomes smaller from burning.
  • Do not leave an active fire while burning. Always stay with a live fire until it’s totally put out.
  • To put out a fire, drown the fire and ashes with water, turn ashes over with a shovel, then drown again with water. Repeat the process several times, making sure the fire is totally out.
  • Check the burn area regularly the next couple of days, even the next couple of weeks following a burn, especially if the conditions are dry, warm and windy.

Create a Fire-Resistance Zone

If your property is in a wildland-urban interface (zone of transition between wildland and human development), create a 30-foot fire-resistant zone around the property.

  • Also consider using fire-resistant plants and landscaping.
  • When disposing of charcoal, always completely cover and stir with water several times making sure the fire is completely out.
  • When people are smoking outside on the premises, make sure to keep a 3-foot clearance around the smoker.
  • Always grind out a cigarette, cigar or pipe tobacco in the dirt, not on a log, stump or wood.
  • It’s best to use an ashtray.
  • No smoking on trails. Ashes could land in dry brush and sparks could start a fire.

Monica Whiteis a freelance writer, member of the Georgia Air National Guard, and an avid runner and cyclist who loves the great outdoors and all things DIY. She divides her time between Tampa and her central Florida property, where she’s growing a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Monica on heroutdoor lifestyle blog, onFacebook, TwitterandInstagram. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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