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Wildfire Safety Tips
- Contact your local fire official before burning to obtain information about the burning regulations in your area. Some communities forbid burning debris, such as leaves, grass, brush, and trash--others allow burning only during specified hours. Obtain a burning permit from your local fire agency. State law (Part 515, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 451 PA 1994) requires a permit for open burning whenever the ground is not snow-covered--even on your own property. On dry, windy days, burning restrictions may be in effect. State law prohibits burning anything other than yard debris, brush, or household trash.
- All burn barrels must be covered with a weighted metal cover, with holes no larger than 3/4 inch--it's the law!
- Consider alternatives to burning--leaves and grass make a fine mulch for gardens, or they can be composted; newspapers and many other every-day household items may be recycled. Recycling and composting eliminates the risk of wildfire and the smoke that comes with burning of trash and yard wastes.
- Always use the ashtray when smoking in your vehicle. Matches tossed from a car window, farm vehicle, or off-road vehicle (ORV) can ignite leaves or grass, causing a wildfire. Never grind a cigarette, cigar, or pipe tobacco out on a stump or log.
- Use a spark-arresting screen on your fireplace or woodstove chimney. Use a wire mesh grating, with holes no larger than 1/2 inch. Make it a practice of keeping your roof clear of leaves and other debris. This will prevent sparks from falling on your roof and igniting leaves and pine needles trapped in roof valleys and gutters.
- Maintain a ring of safety around your home to protect it from wildfires. Keep grass mowed within 30' of all buildings--a mowed lawn will help protect your home from wildfires. Thin out trees within 30 feet of any building so that their crowns don't touch, and trim the bottom branches of all evergreen trees to six feet above the ground.
- Make sure your house number is visible from the street, so fire fighters can locate your home quickly. Keep your driveway wide, accessible, and in good condition for fire trucks to get to your home. Plan safe evacuation routes in case of a large wildfire. Have more than one means of getting to your home.
- Extinguish all outdoor fires properly. Drown fires with plenty of water, then stir. Continue adding water and stirring until everything is cold to the touch. Dunk charcoal in water until cold. Do not throw live charcoal on the ground and leave it; it will smolder and could start a wildfire.
- Always build your campfire in a metal or masonry fire ring. If none are available, scrape away any burnable material until you get to mineral soil, which will not burn. Keep your fire small and have an adequate water supply to extinguish it properly. Make sure every unburned piece is cold to the touch before you leave.
- Never leave a fire unattended. Sparks can blow into leaves or grass and quickly spread. Keep a shovel and charged garden hose nearby while burning so that they can be quickly used to extinguish a fire in an emergency. Maintain a 10-foot diameter circle around your debris pile or burn barrel clear of tall grass and other burnable material.
- Always store ashes in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Do not place them in a paper bag, cardboard box, or plastic bucket. When dumping ashes outdoors, place them on snow or dispose of them on a rainy day. Wet them thoroughly with water to be sure all coals are out completely.
- Be careful with matches. Keep all matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children. In only 10% of the child-caused fires do children have to work to obtain matches or a lighter.
- Parents, caution your children about playing with matches or lighters. Teach them that fire is a useful tool, not a plaything. Also teach them to report any fire they see, or any child playing with fire, to an adult.
- Keep all internal combustion engines used outdoors properly tuned. Such engines must also have a properly functioning spark arrestor. Poorly tuned engines without spark arresting mufflers can emit carbon sparks, causing a wildfire.