Dry conditions require extra caution with burn piles, firefighters warn

Local News

MEIGS COUNTY, OHIO (WOWK) — As we head into fall, many people take to burning their brush and debris to get rid of it.

However, firefighters say if you aren’t careful, this practice can be very dangerous.

Jerry Reitmire was just trying to clear up some branches and debris and decided to burn them in a pile when things quickly took a turn for the worse.

“I went to go to burn it and I didn’t think it was gonna have a wind storm and it picked up and all of a sudden it took off,” Reitmire says.

(Photo Courtesy: Pomeroy Fire Department)

According to the Pomeroy Fire Department, the blaze burned a quarter of an acre of land but luckily didn’t destroy any property.

“The wind wasn’t blowing at the time, but as soon as I lit it, ‘boom’, burst out in flames,” Reitmire says.

To decrease the risk of accidents like these, there are designated seasons where burning brush piles are restricted.

“In Ohio, we have the months of March, April, May, and then October, November where you can only burn between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. during those months. You can never burn within village or city limits,” says Derek Miller, fire chief of the Pomeroy Fire Department.

According to the City of Huntington Fire Department, in West Virginia, similar restrictions and guidelines exist—from March through May and from October through December you may only burn overnight from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.

“In the City of Huntington burning is only allowed for heating, cooking, light, or proper flag disposal. Has to be in a small and properly contained fire pit, either block or brick, or a commercially available some sort of metal fire ring, or a burn barrel,” says Captain Mathew Winters, fire marshal of the City of Huntington Fire Department.

Firefighters do have several tips on how to properly contain and extinguish burn piles.

“Always having a water source nearby, a garden hose, a couple five-gallon buckets. Burning within an approved burn barrel,” Miller says, and also: “…taking a rake and raking the ground down to bare mineral dirt in a ten-foot circle around the burn pit or the burn area.” 

They say to always keep an eye on the pile as it’s burning, because:

“You never know when the wind is gonna shift, when you’re gonna have a problem, weather changes—it could create a major issue really quickly as you’ve already discovered,” Winters says, especially in times when conditions have been dry.

“I’m not gon’ burn no more for a while,” Reitmire says.

Firefighters say you should check with your county or the Division of Forestry on their individual rules (found here for Ohio and here for West Virginia.)

They also warn it is always illegal to burn trash and waste. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to check with your local fire officials first to avoid any mishaps.

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