For Immediate Release - April 19, 2016

Prevent Outdoor & Brush Fires

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “Springtime usually means brush fires for the Massachusetts fire service. Weather conditions elevate the hazards of brush fires.” Once the snow melts, it reveals dried grass, leaves, and fallen branches. Days of high winds, low humidity and bright sunshine combined with the tinder provide the fuel for brush and woods fires.”

Use Caution Outdoors
“Whether you are burning brush, cooking on the barbecue, or riding ATVs in the woods, it is important to keep fire safety in mind,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “Dispose of smoking materials properly, instead of in mulch or dried leaves or potted plants,” he added.

2015 Brush Fires Peaked in May

Average number of brushfires by month

Historically, April is the busiest month for brush fires in Massachusetts. On average, the Commonwealth has 33% more brush fires in April than it does in its next busiest month, May. But in 2015, the spike in brush fires came in May which had 200% more brush fires than the month of April. The delayed snow melt, below average precipitation, and unusually warm May temperatures contributed to fewer than average brush fires in April and a dramatic increase in them last May. Open burning is usually a contributing factor to the April spike in brush fires, but the season ends on May 1.

The term brush fires in this release covers a number natural vegetation fires reported by local fire departments to the Mass. Fire Incident Reporting System (MFIRS) including not only brush fires but also forest, wildland, grass and mulch fires.

Permit Required to Burn Brush; Watch the Wind
Open burning season, in communities where it is allowed, is January 15 to May 1. “A permit from the local fire warden, usually the local fire chief, is required to burn brush and burning can only take place when both air quality and fire safety conditions are acceptable,” said Ostroskey. “Weather conditions can change rapidly, so watch the wind and be prepared to extinguish your open burning. Use common sense and don’t wait for the fire department to contact you that is has become unsafe to burn,” said Ostroskey, “A sudden wind change is how most open burning fires get out of control.”

Don’t Delay a Call for Help
If the fire should get out of control, call the fire department immediately. “Winds can fan the flames and fire can spread faster than a person can run,” said Ostroskey. “Use the utmost caution to prevent injury and damage to property,” he added.

How to Safely Burn Brush:

  • Between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. with a permit from the fire warden.
  • When air is circulating well but without high winds, and the Daily Air Quality Forecast - MassAir Online (also available at the MassDEP Open Burning Hotline at 617-556-1021) is “good” in your community’s Massachusetts Fire and Incident Support (ISU) Response District. Link to the image file.On your own property as close as possible to the source of material(s) to be burned; No less than 75 feet away from all dwellings and away from utility lines.
  • Have fire suppression tools handy: Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose charged with water, and a shovel and rake close by.
  • The fire is constantly monitored by an adult. Leaving burning unattended is a reason to revoke burning permits.
  • 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.
  • Burn the fire down to the coals, drown them with water, spread them out, then drown them again.