No need to burn outdoors; there are better options

silvicultural burning
Landowners must obtain a burn permit before burning large amounts of forest debris on lands protected from wildfire by DNR. Photo DNR

Fall and winter can bring rough weather conditions that wreak havoc with roadways, homes, business and utilities. Storms can quickly create hazardous trees or limbs but there’s no need to compound the adverse event by raising the risks of a runaway wildfire. When you need to clear away yard and tree debris after a storm, think about options other than outdoor burning.

Outdoor burning is a leading cause of wildfire ignitions. If you must burn, know the rules, and choose the right weather for burning. If you have a burn barrel, don’t use it. In fact, just get rid of it – burn barrels are illegal in Washington state.

Fortunately there are alternatives to burning, such as chipping and composting, which are easy and practical ways to dispose of many organic materials or convert them to another use.

Alternatives to outdoor burning 

  • Compost it.It’s a practical and convenient approach for disposing of forest debris. Any vegetable matter can be composted. Organic material, such as fallen leaves, grass clippings, weeds, and the remains of garden plants, make excellent compost. Used as mulch for paths where it will eventually decompose and become compost to use in your garden. Check with your local county extension office, city, or county for schedules of composting classes.
  • Chip it.Turn large branches and debris into mulch. If you don’t already own a chipper, check with your local equipment rental agency. Invite your neighbors to join in to make it more cost efficient for everyone.
  • Use curbside pickup.
  • Take it to an approved landfill that accepts forest debris. Many counties have forest debris waste composting facilities.

Also, outdoor burning is a cause of smoke and certain pollutants. This smoke can be unhealthy, because the small particles in smoke are so tiny they can easily get into your lungs. People most at risk are children, patients with respiratory illnesses, and adults over 65 years old. Visit the Department of Ecology’s air quality website to find out if your local clean air agency has issued a burn ban and other advice.

Don’t risk burning

The biggest human cause of wildfires in Washington is outdoor burning. These escaped wildfires are investigated and, if found guilty, you can be fined. If burning is allowed in your area, the only material that can be burned is natural vegetation grown on the property where the burning occurs. And, be sure to check DNR’s webpage on silvicultural outdoor burning.

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