With the news that St. Joseph County residents will be allowed to burn leaves from Nov. 11th-19th, First Response would like to share some safety tips to help allow you to burn your leaves safely.  Every year we get called out to a fire that was started due to burning leaves and in most cases, those fires could have been avoided with some careful planning and a more thought out strategy.

1. Check the conditions.  DO NOT BURN WHEN IT IS WINDY. Even a small burst of wind can move a burning leaf and cause a fire.  “I didn’t think it was THAT windy,” is not a valid excuse.

2. Never leave the burn pile.  You must stay outside and monitor the situation at all times.  Murphy’s Law would say that the two minutes you go inside to get a drink is when a small wind will transform your small leaf burning into a full fledge garage fire.  Be smart! 

3. Be aware of your surroundings.  Do not burn near any powerlines or low hanging trees.  You need to have at least three times the height of the pile in vertical clearance.  Professionally we would suggest not burning below anything that is hanging.  Why risk it?

4. Have a hose and water source nearby.  As an extra precaution you can spray the ground around the fire to help keep the area wet and prevent additional spreading.

5. Do not burn everything all at once.  This is obviously reliant on what you have to burn and your burn area, but it is always easier to add leaves than it is to take them away.  Keep your fire small and add additional leaves as the fire burn down.

6. If using a burn barrel, make sure it is made entirely of metal, properly equipped (at least three evenly-spaced, three-inch holes, screened vent and metal top screen) and in good condition.

7. When complete, drown the ashes with water and use a shovel to carefully turn over the ashes.  Drown the fire again and repeat multiple times.  The goal is to prevent any sort of rekindling.

If you do decide to burn your leaves this fall, please be cautious and smart.  If you have any questions, call your local fire department and ask for guidance.  They would be more than happy to help you.