Firefighters urge caution if burning before fire season

MEDFORD, Ore — With fire season beginning on Wednesday in Jackson and Josephine counties, agencies stress the importance of checking debris piles.

RELATED: Fire season in JaCo/JoCo to start on Wednesday, May 12th

“It’s going to get scary over the next few months as things get drier and drier,” Captain Nicco Holt, Williams Fire Rescue, told NBC5. “The awareness starts now.”

Oregon Department of Forestry says it responded to six fires on April 28th – largely caused by out of control debris burns. It noted that most previously burned piles can likely reignite and cause fires if its still hot.

ODF strongly recommends homeowners to dispose of yard debris rather than burning. However if burning is the only other option, it recommended the following tips:

  • Call before you burn – Burning regulations vary by location depending on the weather and fuel conditions. If you are planning to burn, check with your local Oregon Department of Forestry district, fire protective association, or air protection authority to learn about current burning restrictions or regulations, and if you need a permit.
  • Know the weather – Never burn on dry or windy days, because fires can spread out of control more easily.
  • Clear a 10-foot buffer – Make sure there are no tree branches or power lines above or fuels around your pile.
  • Keep burn piles small – Large burn piles can cast hot embers long distances. Use small piles, maximum of four feet by four feet. Add only a little debris as the pile burns, to keep it small.
  • Always have water and fire tools nearby – When burning, have a water hose on and ready or a bucket of water, and shovel and dirt to put out the fire. Drown the pile with water, stir the coals, and drown again, repeating until the fire is out cold.
  • Stay with the fire until it is out cold – State laws requires monitoring of debris burn from start to finish until it is out cold. This law is intended to ensure sparks or embers that jump from the fire can be put out quickly. Recheck burn piles. They can retain heat for several weeks and restart when the weather warms up and winds blow.
  • Never use gasoline or other flammable or combustible liquids to start or speed up your fire. Every year, about 60 percent of the Oregon Burn Center cases are from yard debris burning.
  • Only burn yard debris – State laws prohibit burning materials in the open that create dense smoke or noxious odors.
  • Costs of run-away debris burns– State law requires the proper clearing, building, attending and extinguishing of open fires all year. Citations can cost $2,000. If your debris burn spreads out of control, you will have to pay for putting the fire out, and likely the damage to your neighbors’ properties. This can be extremely expensive.

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