Read before burning

Fall is here and with it comes rough weather conditions that wreak havoc on your property. 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.

As we round the end of the year, take advantage of periods of sunshine with little to no rain to assess your property and see if you have any trees or limbs that could be a hazard during the next storm or bout of bad weather.

Because outdoor burning is a leading cause of wildfire ignitions (yes, even in the wet months), think about options other than burning when you need to clear away yard and tree debris. Outdoor burning not only can be a fire hazard, but it can also create unhealthy smoke for your surrounding community.

Especially on the west side, keep an eye on the forecast for winds that are expected to come through the Cascade gaps. This is never good news if you are doing any type of outdoor burning. East winds bring dry, warm air, which can make outdoor burning a high risk of starting a fire.

Want to know what happens when an outdoor burn pile gets out of control?
Listen below.

Many communities, like Virginia Grainger Elementary School in Okanogan, are having clean up or compost parties. This not only brings neighbors together, but it also is a chance to get your property lean and clean before a wildfire comes through.

Before any burning, check with your local clean air agency to see if there is an air quality burn ban in place and look at local monitors to see current air quality levels.

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.

If you must burn, know the rules, and choose the right weather for burning. If you have a burn barrel, don’t use it. Burn barrels are illegal in Washington state.

Fortunately, there are burning alternatives, 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 – Check with your local government or waste management company to see if your area offers curbside collection of yard waste.
  • Take it to an approved landfill that accepts forest debris – Many counties have forest debris waste composting facilities.
  • Host a neighborhood cleanup day

Remember, 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. Be sure to check DNR’s webpage on silvicultural outdoor burning.