Learn Before You Burn
by Sublette County Unified Fire
May 10, 2018
During the recent springtime weather, many local landowners have been completing agricultural burns throughout Sublette County. Unfortunately, the springtime weather has produced windy conditions, warm temperatures, and low relative humidifies. As a result, numerous agricultural burns have gotten out of control, requiring emergency response from Sublette County Unified Fire to extinguish these fires. Recently the volunteer firefighters of Sublette County Unified Fire have responded to 12 escaped agriculture fires.
Sublette County Unified Fire is advising people to get the most up-to-date weather forecast before conducting agricultural burns - Learn Before You Burn! The National Weather Service advises landowners, conservation districts, irrigation districts, and others who plan to conduct prescribed burning activities to check the latest weather forecast by calling the National Weather Service in Riverton toll-free at 1-800-211-1448. The National Weather Service office can be contacted 24 hours a day by phone. Area-specific forecasts are also available online (weather.gov/riverton) or on your SmartPhone at mobile.weather.gov
Additionally, before conducting any planned burning activities, always notify the Sublette County 911 Dispatch Center of the planned burn using the non-emergency phone number (307-367-4378). Oftentimes neighbors and passerby’s will call the 911 Dispatch Center to report visible smoke or flames that is actually from a controlled burn. If the Dispatch Center is notified of the controlled burn beforehand, they can prevent an unnecessary fire department response.
An agricultural burn can easily become uncontrollable when unexpected winds increase and cause the dormant vegetation to burn rapidly. It is common for calm winds to quickly become gusty around mid-day or with the passage of thunderstorms or cold fronts. An accurate weather forecast can make the difference between a successful agricultural burn and an uncontrolled wildland fire.
If a planned burn does escape, you could be held accountable for civil and criminal charges. Property damage costs and firefighting costs can quickly escalate when homes are lost, outbuildings torched, and fences damaged. After a large fire in 2013, the U.S. Forest Service billed a Jackson man $6.3 million for the costs of fighting a wildfire caused from an escaped trash barrel fire.
The following tips for conducting a safe burn are provided from the National Weather Service – Learn Before You Burn! https://www.weather.gov/riw/agburning
1. Call the National Weather Service any time of the day or night, any day of the week at 800-211-1448. The weather can play a pivotal role in whether your burn is successful or not. Light winds in the morning can become strong in the afternoon at the blink of an eye. The NWS can tell you if that is likely to happen on the day you would like to burn and they can help you find a safer day if necessary.
2. Call the Local Authorities. By calling the authorities first you ensure that your burn is legal and that it is not taxing resources unnecessarily. The local sheriff and your local fire department do not want to field calls about your burn and have them turn into a false alarm. In addition, you may have to obtain a burning permit.
3. Talk to your Neighbors. Let them know your plans, as a matter of safety and courtesy.
4. Establish Firebreaks. Create firebreaks by raking or plowing around the area that you would like to burn. Keep that area free of vegetation and wide enough to protect what you don't want damaged outside the burn area.
5. Ready Water and Equipment. Have a reliable water source available. Line up your hand tools such as rakes and shovels in advance and have them readily available for all participants.
6. Plan Before Burning. Begin with the areas that pose the greatest threat of becoming difficult to control. By beginning here, your fire is at its smallest size when it enters the highest fuel loads. Always try and burn into the wind, this slows the rate of spread and makes the fire easier to control
7. Control the Fire! Stay with the fire at all times. You may be liable for damage caused by your fire. Have plenty of helpers on hand. More people helping = more control Keep debris piles small. Large piles generate enough heat to damage nearby trees, power lines, and structures Do not hesitate to call 911 if the fire gets out of hand. The longer you wait, the bigger the fire will be when help does arrive! When finished, ensure that the fire is completely out. Numerous fires break out each year when smoldering areas are left behind. Make sure that your fire is out cold.
Remember: Your fire is your responsibility!