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10 Burn Pile Basics

October 23, 2021

There are tens of thousands of ag-related, damage-causing fires across the country every year. Most of those start in fields. While burn piles can be a staple for most folks who own land or live in the country, it’s important to follow some safety guidelines for a non-eventful burn day. We’ve put together 10 tips to help you build, burn, and douse your debris piles.

Start with the Proper Permits
: ALWAYS check with your local and state burning regulations before burning anything on your property. Some areas prohibit burning of any kind during certain times of the year. Get the proper permits, buy the right machinery (including a water pump and water, if necessary), and check with your local fire departments or agricultural cooperative extension office. If you do not have the proper permits, and/or if the fire causes any damage to structures or property, it can be costly.

Learn more about clearing brush and fire prevention on your property, including using goats for brush control.

Warn Your Neighbors: It’s the best way to avoid uncertainty and a visit from the fire department.

Have Water Nearby: Make sure you can douse the pile with water, just in case something happens. If your water supply does not reach the area, a water tank and pump are a good alternative.

Wear the proper clothing: Avoid wearing anything that can shrink or melt in heat. Stick with cotton shirts, leather boots, and leather gloves.
Keep the Area Clear: Mask sure there are no nearby trees, overhead tree limbs, power lines, or fences within 50 feet of the area where you want to build your burn pile.

Build Your Pile Carefully: Keep your burn pile below 4-feet tall to encourage a slow, even burn. Additionally, this helps keep the fire under control. The taller the pile, the higher the flames can reach, which can shoot embers into the distance.

For best results, build your pile so that air can get into the bottom and middle. Some options include a cross-hatching method, dome shape, or short pyramid. Additionally, do not try to burn limbs that are larger than 6” diameter.

Coastal tip: Do not burn tires, treated timbers, or styrofoam as these can emit toxic fumes into the air.

Clear a Space Around the Pile: Once your pile is ready, clear dry grass and debris around the pile. Making at least a 2-feet perimeter around your pile can add safety to the burn.

Make a Fire Starter: Do not use accelerants unless okayed by your fire district. Instead, build a handful-size nest from dry grass and place it a foot up and into your burn pile. The dry grass will make lighting the burn pile easier. If the burn pile is mostly dry, it should catch fire quickly.

Coastal tip: Always light your fire early in the morning. Before lighting the fire, take note of any breeze. Then light your fire so that it starts on the side that the breeze is heading. This can help the fire burn more slowly, creating a more even burn.

Keep an Eye on the Burn Pile: Two people armed with rakes and shovels should be watching the fire from ignition until it is complexly out. The fire will be the hottest and most unstable during the first half-hour.

Look for Sparks and Embers: They can fly overhead into pastures behind you. Immediately extinguish and bury embers and other burning debris that leaves your burn pile.

Completely Extinguish the Fire: Allow the pile to burn to ash. Once done, douse the area with water and rate/shovel the ash to ensure all fires are out.

We’re Just What the Country Needs

The folks at your Northwest owned and operated Coastal know a thing or two about burning and local regulations. The next time you’re at your favorite store, tell us about your burn needs and we’ll try to point you in the right direction.