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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fire Safety!






Well, it's that time of year. People are going out practicing for the zombie apocalypse... AKA Camping. We are also out cleaning up after winter and getting rid of all the fallen limbs and trees. It is also that time of year when we set our neighbor's woods on fire with our errant embers. So today I want to take a bit of time and cover fire safety.

First off, let's talk about campfires. We all know how to do that safely right? And with the coming of the nicer weather of summer, we all want to get out and put our "man skills" to the test! One thing, if you are in an area with dry, hazardous conditions, don't do it! You can make it one weekend without a campfire. I mean, do YOU really want to be the guy that caused the fire that burns 17 homes and killed an elderly couple? Thought not. Below are some other reminder points

One of the easiest way to prevent a forest fire caused by your campfire is proper site selection. In this regard remember to keep at least 15 feet between your fire to your tent or camper. Also be aware of lower overhead branches that might catch fire and avoid steep hillsides and hilltops. If it is possible select a site that is on the upwind side of a creek. Lastly, use the existing fire rings if they are there.

If there aren't any fire rings in place, you will need to create a fire pit. You need to select a site that is out of open, windy conditions, and where the wind blows laterally to your tent or camper. Now clear a ten foot circle of anything that will burn such as twigs, loose grass, and trash. In the center dig a flat bottomed hole about three to four feet in diameter and a foot or so deep. Use the dirt to berm up the edges and line the berm with rocks if you have them. Keep your shovel handy, but out of the way, and keep a five gallon bucket of water handy. These are your firefighter tools for when the emergency happens! Lastly, if you use a wooden fire poker, dip it before and after you use it in your water to prevent the possibility of unnoticed embers on the end.

Now you're all set! Just remember to use well seasoned hardwoods and to avoid "poppy" woods such as pine that will blow large coals well clear of your fire ring! Might I also suggest the "Upside down fire" technique for a long lasting and easy fire? Yes, I might. <--- click here. (it is also available on our YouTube channel)

Okay, now your fire is going. I know everyone loves to build a huge, raging bonfire of a campfire, but we gotta knock that off. That is a wildfire in the making! Keep it just large enough to keep you warm and to roast the marshmallows! Manageable... that's the word we are looking for.

A brief word here on wildfires.  Think it can't happen to you because you don't live in a desert or on the side of a mountain?  I kind of thought the same way until last year.  In May of 2012, we had one of the largest wildfires of the year for the NATION!  It happened about an hour's drive from my home and we had smoke so thick on some days that you could only see a quarter mile nearly 60 miles from the fire.  This is in Michigan.  Not Colorado, or Montana.  Not SoCal. Michigan.  In the end it burned over 22 thousand acres and 115 structures, many of which were homes.  It CAN happen to you.  (More here: Duck Lake Fire)

Okay, back on topic.  Now you have a campfire, only thing left is extinguishing it.  The tried and true method of peeing on it and then tossing dirt over it is the way to go... if you want a campfire in an hour or two when the wind picks up. Here's my fool proof safe method. Make the wood in the firepit float. Drown it. How do you know it is safe to leave you ask? Stick your hand into the heart of the coals. Scared to do it? Then you didn't use enough water. Start over... creek is over there. --->

The next fire I want to discuss is a debris fire. First things first, call the fire department and see if there are fire restrictions in your area and to ask if you need to obtain a burn permit. Nothing better than a worried neighbor calling 911 because she thinks your barn is on fire and having the fire truck come roaring in, see everything is under control, and then ask to see your permit. Next thing you know, your fire you spent a hour trying to get lit is OUT and so wet it'll be a week before it'll burn again.

To safely burn debris, you first need to be careful where you pile it. Look up to see if there are power lines or phone lines overhead. Check for any limbs overhead. Unlike a campfire that can have higher up limbs over the fire, a debris fire can light anything overheard for up to 50 feet in the right conditions. Next you want to be 50 feet from any building, vehicle, or tree. Clear ten feet of area completely around the pile down to bare earth. You should have a garden hose on standby... and have the valve open at the faucet. Lastly, stay with your fire! If you have to leave, put it out just like a campfire.

Last things I want to cover are your equipment and your home. Be careful when using outdoor power equipment such as a chainsaw or a weed eater. These can start a fire if placed on top of dry grass of needles. When parking your car, be cognizant of what you are parking in. If you park on top of a pile of leaves or a bunch of grass, you can also start a fire. As far as your home is concerned, drown your charcoal from your grill before discarding them. Haul your trash away instead of burning if possible. If you must burn it, use a proper steel barrel with adequate ventilation holes (three equally spaced three by three holes, three inches from the bottom), and a fire screen on top of heavy gauge 1/4 or smaller hole.

As far as you home's lawn and your home itself is concerned, check out the what the guys at Firewise Communities has to say about it. They actually have a wealth of information over there that anyone can benefit from!

So to rehash :

- Clear away anything that CAN burn in all directions.

- Keep all fires small, and do not leave before you can put your hand into the heart of the coals.

- Be sure and drown fires with water, and add water until everything is wet.

- Do not simply cover a campfire with soil; it may simply smolder before coming back to life.

- Embers can re-ignite. Make sure they are out completely. Make them float!

- Consider composting or mulching yard debris and hauling away trash rather than burning it.

- Anytime you plan to build a fire, have water and a tool to put it out before you ignite it.





                        

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