Controlled burning can be a great asset to rural land owners. Property owners who choose to perform control burns may be intimidated by actually starting a fire. The last thing anyone wants to do is start a fire that can turn into a brush fire, or wildfire.
Controlled burning can remove hazards from land that could eventually start a wildfire. Underbrush in the form of leaves, dead trees, and prairie grass are typically the fuel in a wild fire. Removing these hazards from your land has many benefits, including lowering the risk of a raging fire.
Controlled burns do not have to be difficult or dangerous. Following a few simple steps can have you well on your way to removing organic matter, that is a fire hazard, and improving the look of your land. It is OK to be scared during your first controlled burn. Many veteran's feel fear during the burn process. Being prepared and knowing your options will reduce that fear and prepare you for a safe burning experience.
Prepare the area for burning.
A property owner should have a designated area for burning. Typically a fire break is used in this area either natural or man-made. A fire break can be made by removing organic material from the designated burning area. A natural firebreak could be a dried up creek bed, road, or other natureal area the fire can't cross.
If you do not have a natural firebreak on the land a simple one can be made by digging a pit, or raking a 3 foot wide path around the area you designate for burning. Your firebreak should be free of any organic material that can burn.
Decide on how you will start the fires.
Typically the use of accelerants is not needed to start a controlled burn. Controlled burning is done from late fall to early spring. The organic matter to be burned is often dead leaves, branches, and grasses that will burn very quickly without the use of chemicals. A drip torch attached to a vehicle can accelerate the control burning process. If you choose to use an accelerant gasoline should never be the choice. Commonly lamp oil, camping fuel, or diesel fuel are used to ignite a controlled burn. Gasoline burns too fast, and the fumes can ignite and cause injury.
Know how you will put the fire out!
Typically a controlled burn is started and then allowed to burn out on its own. If the fire was to burn out of control how would you put the fire out? In rural setting a landowner can't rely on a Volunteer fire department to control a fire. While these organizations have excellent response times waiting to put out a fire is dangerous.
Many landowners use water soaked cloths to beat a fire back into control. Dirt can be used to smother a fire, as well as wet organic material. If you are going to control burn you should never be alone, and without a way to call for help.
How will you clean up after the controlled burn?
If you are burning fields this step is not necessary. The ashes will nourish and fertilize the ground. If you are control burning in a bonfire type fashion spreading the ashes after they have cooled is a great way to encourage new growth and fertilize gardens and other plants. A grass seed spreader is a great way to spread and use the ashes after a controlled burn.
Always check with your local Fire Department for regulations on controlled burns in your area. A permit may be required. At the very least informing the local fire department of your activities will keep them from showing up with a pump truck. In the country neighbors are helpful, and may see smoke as a sign of danger, and call it in.