Burn barrel safety
My folks have a burn barrel at the edge of their pasture. My dad burns stuff like wood scraps, tree debris and cardboard boxes. He's always careful to note how strong the wind is and if conditions are too dry, he doesn't leave the barrel unattended.
Bill Troup is a fire program specialist with the U.S. Fire Adminstration. He says a burn barrel should be placed in an area that's flat, clear of debris, away from buildings, and has a water source nearby.
Even though the smoldering materials are contained inside the barrel, Troup says you should always cover it with a screen.
"It'll catch the debris from blowing around. You really shouldn't be burning on windy days because you don't know where flying embers could go. You know, you don't want flying embers obviously flying across into the grass, on your neighbor's roof, on your roof, for the potential for fire is there," says Troup.
Building a small fire is best because flame height is not held back by the top screen. Periodically add material as the contents burn down. This will keep the flame under control and reduce the number of sparks flying around. Make sure everything is completely extinguished when you're done.
How you burn is critical for safety, but so is what you burn. Some items should never be incinerated in the open air.
"Basically anything that's chemical could cause toxic smoke," says Troup. "Some communities even regulate that what you can burn in there like yard debris and wood. You know you can't actually go ahead and burn plastics and other materials so you don't want to be burning your spare tire. Because you might be inhaling these fumes, too."
Troup says it's a good idea to call the non-emergency number for your fire department and let them know when you're planning to burn. Your neighbors might see smoke and call 9-1-1. You may also need a permit, so be sure to check out the regulations in your area.
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