of dry weather and wind make early spring the heart of wildfire
season in Missouri. Across the Show-Me State, thousands of acres
of forest and grassland will burn. Most of these fires will be caused
by human negligence or malicious arson.
In days gone by, people often set fires to convert woodlands to
pasture for cattle. Today, improper or unsafe debris burning is
the leading cause of wildfire in Missouri. Most residents who burn
debris never intend for their fire to get out of control, but in
2006, more than 1,500 escaped debris fires burned more than 17,000
acres of the Show-Me State.
What can you do
You can help reduce the threat of wildfire by using simple alternatives
to burning. Or, if you must burn, do it safely.
Consider alternatives to burning
- Compost twigs and small limbs to produce great organic matter
vegetable and flower gardens.
- Chip larger branches into mulch for gardens, trees and landscaped
- Use wood chippers to eliminate tree branches and other debris.
Haul debris to
- designated dump sites in your area.
- Cut fallen limbs for use or sale as firewood.
- Build—don't burn—brush piles. They make great wildlife
habitat and will naturally
decay in two to five years.
If you must burn, do it safely!
- Check with your local fire department to see if open burning
is permitted or if you
need a burn permit.
- Prior to the burn, contact your local forestry office or rural
fire department and tell
- them your plans—what time you plan to start burning, how
long you plan to burn, and
what (brush piles, leaves, etc.) you will burn.
- Check the weather. Avoid burning on dry, windy days. Pick an
overcast day when
winds are calm and humidity is high. Try to burn before 10:00
a.m. or after 3:00 p.m.
This is when winds are usually calmest and humidity is highest.
- Keep brush piles small (about 5 feet by 5 feet), and burn them
in open fields when
snow is on the ground or in the late spring after the grass has
- Avoid burning piles under overhanging tree limbs, utility lines
or close to buildings.
- Cover your debris pile with a waterproof tarp. After a rain,
when the surrounding
vegetation is wet, remove the plastic and you’ll be ready
to burn. This helps reduce the
chance of your fire spreading to surrounding vegetation.
- Before you burn, gather rakes, wet burlap sacks and other firefighting
tools. Have a
source of water close by. This will help you take quick action
should your fire start to get out of control. Call the fire department
immediately should a fire escape.
- Stay with your burn pile until it is completely extinguished.
Drown ashes with water
and stir them with a shovel or rake to make sure there are no
hot embers left
- Check your fire the next day . . . just to be sure.