For more info contact:
Randall Baley, (541) 883-5681
Klamath Falls - The Oregon Department of Forestry, working with the Chiloquin Agency Lake Rural Fire Department and Klamath County Fire District No. 5, responded to two fires recently, with one about 1.5 acres in size and the second a quarter acre. These fires resulted from escaped debris burns. Fire personnel from each agency and the landowners worked to control the fires on two different afternoons and evenings until both were out.
These are just two of several escaped debris burns fire agencies have been responding to in Northern California and Southern Oregon since the above average warmer weather has returned following a record breaking dry winter the geographic area has experienced. A debris fire is the burning organic material, such as yard trimmings, tree limbs, needle build-up, or forest litter. What are some common denominators for these escaped fires?
One may be the idea that if you lit a debris fire last fall, or even last week, and are not seeing smoke or flames; your debris fire may not be out. Piles can and have retained burning material through even a cold and very wet winters, even more so thru this very dry winter and spring.
What can a landowner do to help eliminate this potential problem? If you burned debris piles last fall or earlier this spring, physically check them. To physically check a pile, use a shovel or other equipment to dig through the ashes until you hit the soil underneath. Touch the burned fuels. Is there warmth? Warmth is a sign that burning materials still exist. Mix the ash and soil until all of the material is cold. Recheck the pile(s) later.
Another is the lack of clearing all burnable material down to a mineral soil line [at least 2 ft wide] around the debris piles or burn area.
Not appropriately monitoring a burn site from ignition to “dead out” is another denominator. People should monitor a fire’s activity and be prepared to take control actions as necessary. Weather conditions can change rapidly. A calm, controlled fire can be racing across your property onto another’s in a matter of minutes. Don’t be surprised by sudden changes in weather.
Check with your local rural fire department for a burn permit. Permits contain requirements to help you burn safely, such as under what weather conditions you may burn, what equipment and tools are needed to burn, what time of day to burn, and having someone with the fire until it is dead out.
The Department of Forestry-Klamath-Lake District, responded to 27 escaped debris burn fires in the last three years, with over half of those occurring in the middle of spring. Planning and taking preventative measures could have prevented these fires. Please, help us help you have a fire-safe spring cleanup.