MFD: Burn FAQ
The following information is designed to answer some of the many questions public safety and health agencies are asked about burning issues.
Can One Call Do It All? When planning to burn, call the Grand County Sheriff’s Office at 259-8115, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The dispatcher can advise you if it is a “burn day” and will take your name, location, and time of the burn. It is recommended that you call the dispatcher both before the burn begins and when it is completed. This action may help eliminate some confusion if a fire is reported near your burn location.
Who decides when yard wastes may be burned? The Southeastern Utah District Health Department (SUDHD) regulates air quality. The SUDHD determines daily if weather conditions are favorable for dispersion of smoke. The SUDHD advises the Grand County Sheriff’s Office whether or not any given day is a “burn day” during the season. For clarification of air quality issues, call the SUDHD at 259-5602. Also, if fire conditions become dangerous due to weather, the Utah State Fire Warden may “close” the burning season. When this happens, all open burning is illegal until the Fire Warden declares the burning season “open” again. Alternately, the Chief of a local fire protection jurisdiction may prohibit open burning based on local conditions. For clarification of safety issues, call the Moab Valley Fire Protection District at 259-5557.
What does the weather have to do with it? Fires should not be lit in windy conditions. Just a slight breeze can cause a fire to “blow up” or spread embers across a large area. Generally, during the warmer months, our area experiences convection winds daily during the mid-afternoon as the surface becomes heated and hot air rises. Winds associated with passing cold fronts and thunderstorms can be chaotic. During periods of hot, dry winds, vegetation surrounding your burning site can become pre-heated and pre-dried, even in the “cooler months.” That vegetation can burn explosively if provided with an ignition source such as embers blown from your fire. Conversely, moist, stable air can hold smoke and fire gases down near the surface and cause the smoke to infiltrate homes and collect in low spots. People can become ill from inhaling smoke and fire gases and visibility for motorists may be compromised. The best time to burn is on a clear, windless day. This will allow the hot smoke and fire gases to rise vertically in the dry air and dissipate.
What safety measures should be taken when burning? Common sense is the best safety tool. Never leave a fire unattended. An adult should be present during the entire course of any yard waste or weed fire. This person should be armed with a charged garden hose to keep the fire controlled and have a telephone close at hand to call 911 for help if the fire becomes uncontrollable. Let neighbors know of your plan to burn. Plan ahead what you will do if the fire gets out of control. Always have two escape routes planned. Never use chemicals such as gasoline to accelerate a fire; spills on skin and clothing can ignite and ground spills can act as a “fuse” leading the fire to undesired locations — vapors can explode. Wear close-fitting, cotton clothes — synthetics can melt even at relatively low temperatures — and leather shoes (not sandals), leather gloves, and eye protection. Burn several small, easy to control piles rather than one large pile. Avoid “feeding” the fire with new fuels. Make fires only in open areas away from areas full of weeds or brush and overhanging trees. Keep fires away from buildings and vehicles. Do not allow horseplay near fires. Spray the perimeter of the fire area with water before starting the fire. When the fire is out, soak the ashes which may be concealing hot embers and frequently check the area to make sure the fire has not rekindled. If a fire gets out of control, call 911 for help first before attempting to fight the fire. Alert family and neighbors to evacuate. If fighting the fire, provide yourself an escape route. Never let the fire get between you and your escape. Fires can move much faster than you can.
What legal concerns are there with burning? Failure to comply with either the Health Department’s regulations or Fire Safety regulations can result in criminal charges or civil suits. If your fire gets out of control and encroaches upon property owned by other private parties or the public, you may be held liable for damages and the cost of suppressing the fire. If your fire or smoke injures people or makes them ill, punishments can be severe.
What can I do to avoid a hassle with my neighbors? Use good manners. Talk with your neighbors when planning to burn. Find out if your neighbor’s health could be compromised by your actions. Avoid being a nuisance by planning your burn at times when your neighbors will be away and during optimal weather conditions for smoke to disperse. Burn only organic yard wastes.