Making open burning safe burning

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    Staff Writer

    With spring now in full swing (despite last weekend’s snow), many Archuleta County property owners are kicking off their seasonal land maintenance work, including open burning.

    Property owners living within the Pagosa Fire Protection District are reminded that an open burning permit is required before any open burning within the district, and all property owners looking to do open burning are reminded that safety should come first.

    According to PFPD Assistant Chief Brian Leewitt and Wildland Coordinator John Gilbert, the purpose for the burn permits within the district are twofold: The permits allow the PFPD to track the location of fires within the district, and allow the district to disseminate information.

    That information includes burn restrictions that may be in place, other factors that affect when property owners can or should burn on their property (such as weather), and PFPD regulations on open burning.

    The open burning rules and regulations disseminated by PFPD include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Archuleta County Combined dispatch must be notified immediately before burning.

    • Open burning is allowed only between sunrise and sunset and “when atmospheric conditions comply within set limits.” No burning is allowed after dark.

    • Open burning cannot be conducted within 50 feet of any structure, propane tank or other source of flammables or fuels. Conditions that could cause the fire to spread to within 50 feet of a structure should be eliminated prior to ignition of the fire.

    • A garden hose connected to a water supply with adequate pressure or other approved on-site fire extinguishing equipment must be available for immediate use at the site of any open burn.

    • Any burning material should be attended by a “competent adult” from the time of ignition until one-half hour after the flames are extinguished. The competent adult must have a working telephone and be knowledgeable in the use of fire-extinguishing equipment and know the limitations of the open burning permit.

    • Open burns may not be left unattended, and parties should report immediately if a fire extends beyond its control area by calling 911.

    • Brush and scrap wood may only be burned in a maximum of three piles at a time, with no one pile exceeding a cube measuring 4 feet on each side.

    Trash must be burned in a barrel with a screen over the opening.

    Fires in constructed fire pits are limited to a cube measuring 2 feet on each side.

    • The PFPD is authorized to require the immediate extinguishment of any open burning if the district determines that open burning constitutes or adds to dangerous or hazardous conditions.

    Permits are available at the PFPD office at Station 1, located on North Pagosa Boulevard, for $10 and are good to the end of the current calendar year.

    By requiring the burn permit and property owners calling in to dispatch prior to burning, the PFPD is better able to respond to fires since responders will know a burn permit is active.

    Dispatch can also advise property owners upon their calling if a Red Flag Warning is in place that would prohibit burning. Red Flag Warnings indicate the potential for extreme fire behavior, including high winds and dry fuels.

    Gilbert and Leewitt both noted the importance of properly planning for weather when burning.

    “We encourage them (property owners) to keep an eye on the weather prior to burning and during burning,” Gilbert said, with Leewitt adding that the PFPD posts fire alerts on its website, www.pagosafire.org.

    And, both recommended that property owners outside of the district, where open burning permits are not required, to also look at weather and contact dispatch when burning for the same reasons.

    As a service to property owners within the district, property owners can call the PFPD at 731-4191 with questions or concerns about materials to be burned, and PFPD personnel are available to look at material and give property owners suggestions, Gilbert and Leewitt added.

    Property owners with property accessed through gates are also urged to call the PFPD with updated gate codes to allow the fire district to more quickly respond to fires on the property.

    randi@pagosasun.com