Many producers in Pottawatomie County have been busy the last several years clearing land to get it back into production. Whether they were cleaning up hard woods for cedar, one of the byproducts of this hard work is brush piles. One of the best solutions for getting rid of these brush piles is burning. The question is how we burn these piles in the correct way without putting our land or our neighbor's property at risk.
Recently, John Weir, OSU Research Associate and Range Ecologist, said that brush pile burning accounts for the start of approximately 60% of all wildfires in the southeastern United States. That's a significant number and one that certainly holds true for Oklahoma as well.
"You know, a lot of people think that the best time to burn a brush pile is when it snows and there is snow on the ground," said Weir. "But, we know here in Oklahoma, most of the time our snow just doesn't last very long. Typically, the snow is gone in a day or two, but the brush pile can continue to burn for several days or even weeks."
Weir pointed out that once that snow leaves, the vegetation around brush piles can dry out pretty quickly and become flammable. Add to that, the fact that if a strong front should come through with high winds, the embers from the brush pile can be carried to dry vegetation and you have an escaped wildfire.
So, when is the best time to burn a brush pile? Weir says he prefers late April, May and June, when vegetation really starts to green up. The chances of spot fires from blowing embers is much less at the time of year when there is a majority of green vegetation.
What are other factors should you consider before lighting up that brush pile? For one, what is the weather going to be like today and for the next few days, because, if there is going to be a big change in the weather with strong winds forecast, you might want to postpone burning until the forecast is more favorable.
"It's good to have some type of fire suppression equipment available just in case you have a problem," said Weir. "That way, if you do have a problem, you may be able to handle it before it becomes something major."
Call the local fire department or central dispatch just to let them know you are planning to burn. It's just good sense and a common practice. It's a good idea to let your neighbors know as well.
If you have a rather large brush pile with perhaps several dried cedar trees, there things you can do to control the intensity of the fire. Start the fire on the downwind side of the brush pile. That way, you are creating sort of a backfire where the fire will burn slowly through it versus lighting the upwind side.
For more information on burning brush piles, using prescribed fire for weed and brush control, or other land management practices, be sure to come by 14001 Acme Rd Shawnee, call (405) 273-7683, or email firstname.lastname@example.org your local OSU county Extension office. Ask for fact sheet NREM 2894 Managing Brush Piles.