Preventing summer wildfires and protecting your home often starts in the spring when fire danger is traditionally low and the warm weather lends to working outside. Spring is the perfect time to clean up around the home and discard piles of yard debris safely and effectively. Regardless of the time of year, always use caution if your plans include burning piles of yard debris.
Debris burning is the number one human-caused wildfire, with many fires taking place in the spring and fall. Statewide in 2015, 209 fires caused by debris burning blackened 432 acres and cost more than $630,000 to suppress. One-third of these fires took place before and after fire season.
In Jackson and Josephine counties, escaped debris burning fires in 2015 caused 44 wildfires that burned 113 acres.
The Oregon Department of Forestry urges residents to exercise caution when burning debris and to refer to the following checklist before burning:
- Seek alternatives to burning, such as chipping or recycling the debris.
- If you decide to burn the material, call your structural fire department to see if a burning permit is required.
- Call your county’s air quality office to find out whether open burning is allowed that day. The number in Jackson County is (541) 776-7007. In Josephine County, call (541) 476-9663.
- Construct the burn pile in an isolated spot so the flames won’t spread to adjacent vegetation. Dig or scrape a fire line around the burn pile. Make sure there are no overhanging branches or powerlines above the burn pile.
- Keep the burn pile small. Burning a small pile is easier to control than a large one.
- Have a shovel and water at the burn pile site. If the site can be reached with a garden hose, make sure the hose extends at least 25 feet beyond the pile’s location.
- Avoid burning during windy conditions. Embers can travel and ignite spot fires nearby.
- Stay with the fire, wetting down the edges to prevent escape, until it is completely out.
- Remember, unattended piles can quickly spread out of control. If your debris burn escapes control, call 911 immediately.
This is also the best time of year to make your property wildfire-safe. Be sure and remove all dead leaves and needles from your roof and gutters. Create a defensible space of 30 to 100 feet around your home by clearing brush and moving wood piles. Keep your lawn well irrigated and make sure your driveway is clearly marked and accessible for emergency vehicles and equipment.