A combination of dry weather and wind make early spring the heart of wildfire season in Missouri. Across the Show-Me State, thousands of acres of forest and grassland will burn. Most of these fires will be caused by human negligence or malicious arson.
In days gone by, people often set fires to convert woodlands to pasture for cattle. Today, improper or unsafe debris burning is the leading cause of wildfire in Missouri. Most residents who burn debris never intend for their fire to get out of control, but in 2006, more than 1,500 escaped debris fires burned more than 17,000 acres of the Show-Me State.
You can help reduce the threat of wildfire by using simple alternatives to burning. Or, if you must burn, do it safely.
Consider alternatives to burning
Compost twigs and small limbs to produce great organic matter for your
vegetable and flower gardens.
Chip larger branches into mulch for gardens, trees and landscaped areas.
Use wood chippers to eliminate tree branches and other debris. Haul debris to
designated dump sites in your area.
Cut fallen limbs for use or sale as firewood.
Build—don't burn—brush piles. They make great wildlife habitat and will naturally
decay in two to five years.
If you must burn, do it safely!
Check with your local fire department to see if open burning is permitted or if you
need a burn permit.
Prior to the burn, contact your local forestry office or rural fire department and tell
them your plans—what time you plan to start burning, how long you plan to burn, and
what (brush piles, leaves, etc.) you will burn.
Check the weather. Avoid burning on dry, windy days. Pick an overcast day when
winds are calm and humidity is high. Try to burn before 10:00 a.m. or after 3:00 p.m.
This is when winds are usually calmest and humidity is highest.
Keep brush piles small (about 5 feet by 5 feet), and burn them in open fields when
snow is on the ground or in the late spring after the grass has greened up.
Avoid burning piles under overhanging tree limbs, utility lines or close to buildings.
Cover your debris pile with a waterproof tarp. After a rain, when the surrounding
vegetation is wet, remove the plastic and you’ll be ready to burn. This helps reduce the
chance of your fire spreading to surrounding vegetation.
Before you burn, gather rakes, wet burlap sacks and other firefighting tools. Have a
source of water close by. This will help you take quick action should your fire start to get out of control. Call the fire department immediately should a fire escape.
Stay with your burn pile until it is completely extinguished. Drown ashes with water
and stir them with a shovel or rake to make sure there are no hot embers left
Check your fire the next day . . . just to be sure.