ACES: Practicing Fire Safety in the Fall
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Alabama – Fall is a popular season for bonfires, campfires, and prescribed burns in Alabama. To spread the word about practicing fire safety, a regional officer from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System educates everyone on how to responsibly enjoy the beautiful fall weather.
Ryan Mitchell said thoughtful planning and careful execution are essential for safe combustion.
The triangle of fire
Fire needs three elements to thrive: oxygen, fuel and heat. This trio is called the fire triangle. Without the existence of these three elements, the fire will not thrive. If you remove just one of these items, any flame will slowly die out or disappear completely.
The termfuel refers to any material – living or not – that fire can use to spread. This can include anything from light, flashy combustibles such as grasses or shrubs, to larger materials like stumps and piled up storm debris that take longer to extinguish. Of course, in dry conditions, the ignition rate of these fuels is exacerbated by the lack of moisture in the air and the material itself.
As you drive through Alabama in the fall and winter, large clouds of smoke rising into the blue sky can be alarming. However, these clouds are likely prescribed burns – the intentional burning of forests or farmland.
The use of prescribed burning has proven to be a very beneficial tool in agriculture and forestry management. In crop fields, it removes debris before the next planting, controls weeds and reduces pests/diseases. In forestry, making a low intensity fire through a forest floor reduces hazardous fuel loads, decreases natural competition for wood, allows sunlight to reach the forest floor, improves wildlife habitat and nourishes the floor.
Before intentionally starting a fire, experienced practitioners go through hours of planning to create a prescription of the conditions necessary to achieve specific goals. Prescribed burning is a safe way to apply a natural process, ensure ecosystem health, and reduce future wildfire risk.
“If you choose to do a prescribed burn, security is of utmost importance,” Mitchell said. “Under the wrong conditions, fire can easily get out of control and affect property and life.”
Mitchell said everyone should contact the Alabama Forestry Commission for a free burn permit before initiating a burn of over a quarter acre. Also check the agency’s website for any burning restrictions in the area.
There is also a training course for those aspiring to become a certified prescribed burn manager. Certified Prescribed Burn Manager The course covers 32 hours of discussion, planning, and study of Alabama’s fire laws. Anyone interested in using prescribed burning as a management tool is encouraged to participate in the program.
Bonfires, campfires and piles of burns
Most Alabamians like to sit around a nice campfire or bonfire. These events are a popular way to bring people together during this time of year. However, they can become dangerous if not done responsibly.
Before grabbing those marshmallows, be sure to handle the fire properly, especially when starting it. Remove all flammable materials from around a fire site, including debris, brush, fuel cans, etc. before lighting a flame. This will reduce the possibility of the fire spreading to unwanted locations, such as vehicles or structures.
“Never stepping on a big pile to ignite it,” Mitchell said. “This action can potentially lead to a fall or jam as the fuel burns rapidly.”
Mitchell adds that it’s not a good idea to use gasoline or other accelerators that can give off explosive fumes. Using this method can cause serious injury.
feel the burn
Now that fall has come to stay, keep practicing accountability as you manage possessions or huddle around the fire.