Building a safe bonfire
Radio interview source: Tony Collins, fire marshall, Clive, Iowa, Fire Department
A couple of times a year, we have a bonfire party at our farm. We roast hotdogs and marshmallows and everybody has a great time.
Fire marshall Tony Collins says before you strike the first match, find out if it's legal to build a bonfire on your property. You may need prior permission with a permit, and most jurisdictions will give you a checklist of safety considerations.
"It'll list information on hazardous conditions, dry conditions, prevailing winds, the speed of the winds, types of fuel to use, how to ignite it, and distance requirements from structures," Collins says. "It will also explain how to properly use security and fire ground monitors -- people that are put in positions to monitor floating embers that can start other fires."
Collins says your bonfire should be in an open area at least 50 feet from the nearest building. Burn dry, seasoned wood -- no railroad ties, nothing coated or treated, and for Pete's sake, don't toss furniture on it. The pile shouldn't be much bigger than 5'x5' to keep the flames manageable.
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