Controlled burn photo

Check the weather, dress appropriately, and protect all perimeters before you begin a controlled burn.

Controlled burns have a long history in this country. Colonists learned from the Native Americans that it has several goals – clearing undergrowth from forests, killing young unwanted trees in meadows, raising the pH of farm fields, curbing pests and diseases. Today, they are still a valuable land management activity and will also reduce the risk of wildfire on your land. Last spring was a long cool and rainy spring, locally. Maybe the grasses in your wild areas grew tall and green, even four feet high. And by the time they started to dry out and turn brown, it was July, with hot temperatures and drought conditions. Not safe for burning anything.

For safe conditions, you want the humidity to be at least 50%, the temperature well below 80 degrees and the wind speed well below 7 mph. A light breeze will help move the fire along, but no more. So before you begin, keep an eye on the weather. Next, be sure to acquire any permits required for your location. Next, make a plan. You will want to protect your perimeters, fence lines and any structures, and choose just a small area at a time. To begin, choose a spot toward the top of a slope because fire tends to move uphill; protect everything beyond it. You may have natural firebreaks like a gravel road, driveway, or pond, otherwise, you need to provide them. Mow a break in the grass, then water it well with a hose or plow until you expose bare soil and wet that.