For Immediate Release - April 19, 2013

State Fire Marshal Urges Caution: Prevent Brush and Wildland Fires

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan urged caution when outdoors this spring to prevent brush and wildland fires. Coan said. “Every spring, wind and weather conditions combine to elevate the hazards of brush fires. Warm winds, low humidity and bright sunshine combine to dry out the dead leaves, twigs and branches lying on the forest floor since the previous fall. This combustible debris provides the fuel for brush and woods fires. Once started, winds fan the flames and fire can spread faster than a man can run.”

Coan added, “These fires take many long hours to extinguish and can be physically grueling to bring under control. Preventing these fires can help our firefighters.” April is usually the worst month for brush and wildland fires when the snow has melted but the ground has not yet greened up, leaving last year’s dried grass and leaves as ready tinder.

Open Burning

“Even though we are in the middle of open burning season, remember that a permit is required from the local fire chief who is best able to assess the conditions and make sure it is safe to burn,” said Coan. “Maintain constant vigilance over your permit fire. Having a garden hose, shovel and rake on hand to keep the fire under control can prevent damage to both your property and your neighbor’s ” said Coan. The MA Dept. of Environmental Protection has regulations on open burning which is not allowed in many communities.

Don’t Delay a Call for Help

If the fire should get out of control, call the fire department immediately. Use the utmost caution to prevent injury to yourself or family members or any damage by fire to your home.

Watch the Wind: Be Prepared to Extinguish All Open Burning

It is unsafe to burn during high winds. Use common sense and don’t wait for the fire department to contact you that is has become unsafe to burn. Sudden wind change is how most open burning gets out of control.


Average Number of MA Brush Fires by Month

*2012 figures should be considered preliminary.

How to Safely Burn Brush

An adult should always be present during open burning and children and pets should be kept at a safe distance away.

  • Use paper and kindling to start a fire and add progressively larger pieces of wood. Parts of a leftover Christmas tree may also be used.
  • Never use gasoline, kerosene or any other flammable liquid to start a fire! The risk of personal injury in these cases is very high.
  • Burn one small pile at a time and slowly add to it. This will help keep the fire from getting out of control.
  • Select a location away from utility lines.

Fires Must be Attended Until Completely Extinguished

Do not leave your fire burning unattended. This is a reason to revoke your burning permit

Fire Control Tools and Water Supply Must Be Present

The water supply can be a pressurized fire extinguisher, a pump can or garden hose, and be sure to test it out before igniting the fire to be sure it works properly. Also, if relying on a garden hose double-check that the water supply is turned on and that there are no cracks in the hose itself. You are required to have a water supply and fire control tools on hand.