Summer isn’t the only time when fires are dangerous. Whether you’re going on a winter camping trip, burning debris outside, or using a fire for warmth or light, you still have to remain cautious when burning in the winter. Don’t be deceived by the comfort of the snow on the ground, keep the following winter fire safety tips in mind.
Follow Local Regulations
In many areas, there’s no need to obtain a burning permit for recreational campfires as long as the fire danger is low. This is typically the case in the winter, but you’ll want to check with local authorities to make sure, especially if there isn’t any snow on the ground or if it’s windy outside.
If you choose to burn debris, there’s a good chance you may have to obtain a permit. However, some areas waive this requirement if there is snow on the ground. For instance, in Minnesota, you don’t need a burning permit for debris if there’s more than three inches of snow on the ground.
Burning regulations change from state to state, county to county, and day to day, so be sure to check your local requirements for the day you choose to burn.
Choose a Safe Burning Site
Although fire dangers are typically lower in the winter, you still want to exercise caution. Just like when you burn in the summer, you’ll want to choose a safe area to burn your fire. You should set up your fire far away from buildings, cars, equipment, hanging branches, etc. Allow a vertical clearance of at least three times the height of the fire and a horizontal clearance twice the height of your pile.
The surrounding area should be free of debris that could catch fire. If there’s no snow on the ground, exercise the same cautions you would in the summer by clearing the area of dry debris. It’s best to burn your campfire in a closed fire ring year-round.
Be Prepared to Control Your Fire
A gust of wind can send your fire outside the safety zone you’ve established. This can cause dry debris to go up in flames. That’s why it’s important to be prepared any time of year. Be sure to have water nearby, through a garden hose, for instance. You’ll also want to keep a tool like a shovel with you to help reduce flames if they escape your fire pit.
Remain With Your Fire Until It’s Out
Just because fire danger is low, it doesn’t mean there isn’t the chance that your fire will spread. Even if there is snow on the ground, it’s important to realize that moisture from the snow can’t put out all fires. Be watchful of your winter fire the same way you are careful any time of year. Like with any fire, you’ll want to stay with a fire during the winter until it’s completely extinguished.
To ensure your fire is burned out, douse the coals with water, and then fold the embers into the soil and drown the coals again. If there’s snow on the ground, you can use that to put the fire out, but make sure to wait around for the “hissing” to stop so you know the fire is out.
When burning fires for any reason, whether for recreational purposes or to get rid of debris, you need to exercise caution year-round. Keep the abovementioned tips in mind when burning this winter to ensure safety.