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  1. #1

    Default Burn pile maintenance

    Got a couple questions about how best to manage a burn pile (full of tree limbs, yard waste, scrap lumber, etc.).

    1. What factors do you use on deciding when to burn off the pile? How important is wind? Recent rain? Amount of debris to burn?

    2. My property runs next to corn fields. Do I need to worry about ashes starting a fire in the dry field -- even if the corn is down?

    3. This is an old burn pile that has several feet of ash and soot that I'd like to remove. What's the best thing to do with that burnt material? Can it be used as compost or fertilizer or anything?

    4. What other advice do you have?



  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jul 2001
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    1,807
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    Sharpsburg, Md
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    John Deere 4100 HST

    Default Re: Burn pile maintenance

    Burned out...

    1. Wind - biggest determinant!!! Too windy - no burn. Wet burn pile - lots of smoke. Personnally, I choose to make a small pile and have it awfully hot!! Somewhere between 6 - 10" across. Start small, build a good hot fire and you would be amazed at how fast it will burn. We typically have a brush pile somewhere near 15 -20 feet across and 5 or so feet high. Start early in the morning and it will be gone by suppertime.

    2. I would wait until the farmer havests. Do you want to pay him for his crop loss? And other unimaginable problems.... If it has recently been havested wait awhile for the chaff to blow off. Be prepared to put out small fires, just in case. If it has recently rained, that is a good time to burn as it lessens the chances for brush fires.

    3. Just get your FEL and spread it around. I wouldn't put it in your garden.

    4. Check with your local fire department and government. They may have some rules in place. You may have restrictions on what you can and cannot do. My biggest constraint - always have someone around to watch the fire. I had to beg my wife to stay around a fire when I was at work. She had a couple of small incidents which woke her up. Usually flair ups when the wind kicked up and she built a really big fire. Watch the burning of leaves and paper as they tend to turn into burning missiles at the mercy of the wind and fire.

    Terry




  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2001
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    223
    Location
    Tioga county, NY
    Tractor
    Kubota B2710/LA402 FEL, R4's

    Default Re: Burn pile maintenance

    I'm also interested to hear any advice on this topic. I just made a huge pile this past weekend and here's my plan. The pile is a mix of spruce trees, saplings (mostly wild apple and wild cherry) and multiflora rose bushes. Most of this was cut early this past spring but I also added some more freshly pulled spruce. I'll use the rotary cutter in the next few weeks to clear the pasture of dead grasses. Sometime before the first snow I'll cover the pile with a plastic tarp and then wait till next Jan. or Feb. when there's lots of snow on the ground. Remove the tarp, light it up then get very long sticks for the weenie roast [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img].

    Dave

    PS- I also made sure the pile is within reach of a long garden hose!


  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2001
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    34
    Location
    Lebanon, IN
    Tractor
    New Holland TC33D w/SS

    Default Re: Burn pile maintenance

    I wouldn't use the ash on a garden, it will increase the pH of the soil. Most vegetables like a slightly acidic soil. Grass, on the other hand likes a slightly basic soil. I spread ash out over the lawn.
    Chris



  5. #5
    Super Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2000
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    8,004
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    Shingle Springs California
    Tractor
    New Holland TC40D

    Default Re: Burn pile maintenance

    In my area, in N. Calif...

    Call the local BURN number. We can only burn on certian days, due to air quality, wind, fuel moisture. We are generally totally cut-off between May 15th through November. If it is a burn day, you still want to do it on a calm day. The wind can blow embers all over the place. Alway cut a wide fire-break around your pile, have a shovel and fire extinguisher available. If you can reach the pile with a hose, that is good too.

    Keep in mind what you are burning. It is nice to get a real hot fire, 'cause it usaully burns faster and more complete. But, it can also have more sparks and brands which can carry a ways.

    Here, legally, you can not have a pile larger than 4' across, and 4' high. You can only burn yard trimmings and trash. You can not burn construction debris, mattresses ect, legally.

    If you are next to that corn field, wait till you have a good wetting rain. If you fire escapes onto another persons property, you are responsible for any damage it causes.

    The best advice is to go check with your local Fire Dept. They will have all the info you need, and can direct you on the particulars for your area.

    RobertN in Shingle Springs Calif

  6. #6
    Epic Contributor Bird's Avatar
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    Mar 2000
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    37,442
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    Texas

    Default Re: Burn pile maintenance

    I think RobertN's advice to call your local fire department is the best advice. We normally have no burning restrictions except during dry spells in the summer, but that doesn't relieve you of responsibility if you let it get away from you. Around here, the volunteer fire department usually has someone available to bring a fire truck and stand by for "controlled burns" if you call them a few days in advance.

    Other than that, I wait until not long after a rain, and start early in the morning on a calm day with dew on the ground.

    Bird

  7. #7
    Super Star Member
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    Sep 2000
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    10,079
    Location
    Triangle Of North Carolina
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    JD 4700

    Default Re: Burn pile maintenance

    Call the local fire marshall or the state ranger. NC has a ranger for every county as far as I know. The ranger for my county is within a mile or two of my land as the crow flies. I have talked with him a couple of times and gotten good information. I don't want him to HAVE to visit me! [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    NC requires burn permits at least in my area. The local farm supply places hand them out. Not a big deal. You can only burn yard waste/land clearing waste etc. Tires are a no no. Can't remember about construction materials but I would think that might be a no no as well. The ranger or marshal will know for sure.

    My small material burns, 1-4 inch wood, but mainly 1-2 inch saplings, are stacked about 6 feet or so tall, maybe 10-12 feet wide and 12-15 feet deep. Give or take. I dug out a stump at the burn spot and then went in with the FEL and dug a pit maybe 5 feet across, FEL wide, and 6 or so feet long and maybe 2 feet deep. I place the burn material OVER the hole. The spoil dirt I have off to the side. I wait until we have had a decent amount of rain so the ground is wet. I have a pile of timber slash, pine bark, logs, and such near my burn pile so I'm very carefull with starting a fire. What I have noticed is that a decent rain makes the piles of slash very moist inside. I don't see how it would catch on fire but I still run around chasing embers.... [img]/w3tcompact/icons/frown.gif[/img]

    After a good couple of rains, and its cool/cold outside, and no wind in the forcast, I'll do a burn. I have had a pile ready to go for awhile now but its been to hot to burn. And this fire will be HOT! I get out first thing in the morning, put old newspaper in the pile and pour used oil on the wood/paper. Light a match and stand back! It will take awhile to catch but when it does I have had flames 10 feet or so in the air. [img]/w3tcompact/icons/frown.gif[/img]

    Starting the fire around daybreak is a good idea. It usually takes an hour or so after the sun comes up before any wind starts. I got caught one day with more wind that was forcast and that was not fun.... I've noticed that once a rain front comes through that we might not have any wind. So that is what I try to time. I have been lucky to have a rain on a Friday, burn on Saturday and have rain on Sunday/Monday! Thats perfect! [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    Once the burn is going, the first two hours are the worst when one worries about spreading fire. The ground around the fire is dirt so the fire can't spread that way so I worry about embers. Embers do travel a distance and are HOT. I picked one up to test once! [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img] Notice the word ONCE. [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img] After about 2 hours the embers seem to stop as the little wood has burned up and the big stuff starts to go. As the fire burns down I use the FEL to push stuff into a pile. Since I have this over a hole, the wood fall readily down and the heat is more concentrated. As I push the wood it just falls into the hole and burns easier. At the end of the day most of the wood is burned except for 10+ inch stuff. I take my spoil dirt and smoother the fire. I don't have water on the property so I have to use dirt. Works real well so far.

    I keep the tractor nearby so if something does start I can jump on it with the tractor. For the first two hours I walk around the fire looking for embers.

    In NC its against the law to leave a burn pile unattended. I see lots of people do it on large land clearing sites but I'm not doing it. I saw a burn two weeks ago that they started on a Monday and it was still burning on Saturday. I only saw someone pushing up the fire on Saturday. Never saw a soul the rest of the time and I made two trips that week....

    Wind and a burning pile is a bad, Bad, BAD thing. The one time I had the burn going and the wind picked up I was a very unhappy camper for a couple of hours. The permit/laws also limit when you can start a fire.

    Hope this helps.....
    Dan McCarty


  8. #8
    Super Member
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    Default Don\'t use gas!

    I forgot in the earlier post; DO NOT USE GAS TO START THE BURN PILE!

    Use diesel if you have to, or charcoal lighter fluid.

    Gas is just to volatile and dangerous

    RobertN in Shingle Springs Calif

  9. #9
    Super Star Member
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    Triangle Of North Carolina
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    JD 4700

    Default Re: Don\'t use gas!

    Good advice about gas.

    I sorta mentioned in my previous note that I put used oil on the pile to start the fire. I mix my old gas that I don't want to run in the chainsaw/blower/brush cutter in with the old oil. I have a watering can, [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img], that I use to make my mixture and spread on the burn pile. It can take while to start burning especially as the pile is wet but that is ok.

    The other thing I forgot to mention is how how the fire can get. I burn when during the winter and hopefully the temps are at least in the low 40s or cooler. During the burns I'm wearing very thick and heavy wool pants maybe with polypro long johns as well as heavy shirts. When I have to get near the fire with a shovel I'll put on gloves and heavy wool coat as well as my chainsaw helmet with the ear protection and wire mesh face guard. Even with all this I can't stand near the fire for very long at certain parts of the burn. I can run in move some wood about and then get out. The wire mesh on the face guard provides a suprising amount of protection from the heat.

    When I use the FEL to push the burn pile I make sure I don't run over any embers..... [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    Later...
    Dan McCarty


  10. #10
    Super Member
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    Default Re: Don\'t use gas!

    Dan,
    That made me think of something else, when you mentioned polypro skivvies...

    When working around a fire, it is good to wear all natural fiber clothes, clear down to skivvies. This may be taking things to extreme, but those synthetic "plastic" type fibres can melt or burn when near high heat. I wouldn't expect a problem when you have heavy pants and wool jackets on, but it is a possibility.

    Even with full turnout gear on, we do not wear synthetics into a fire; they can melt to your skin, even with all the safety gear we wear.

    For anyone wearing a nylon jacket, or polypro "sweater/pullover",, that is a consideration. If a person gets to close while tending a fire, they will melt, and can stick right to your skin.

    RobertN in Shingle Springs Calif

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