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Open Air Burning
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By PIO / Fire Prevention Officer Scot Best
April 1, 2021

Outdoor burning is common in our area, particularly in the springtime when homeowners burn debris and brush on their property. These fires often grow into uncontrolled burns and wildfires, which can result in enormous losses of natural resources, personal property, and even lives. The Maryland Forest Service responds to 325 wildfires – 96% of which are started by people - that burn 3,200 acres annually. Debris or open air burning is the leading wildfire cause in Maryland, accounting for 28% of wildfire starts. [Based on 10-year average statistics.]

Fire can be an effective tool when used properly. Even so, the best intentions can produce disastrous results when safety precautions are not taken.

Ridge VFD would like to remind First District citizens of safety and jurisdictional requirements when burning outdoors. Open air burning is defined as a fire where any material is burned in the open or in a receptacle other than a furnace, incinerator, or other equipment connected to a stack or chimney. It also includes other fires such as campfires.

Alternatives to open air burning include: composting, disposal at a local landfill where the yard debris can be turned into mulch or periodic curbside pick-up by your regular trash collector (where available).

If you must burn, take the time to ensure that all safety and regulatory precautions have been taken.

Per the Maryland Forest Service’s Open Air Burning Regulations, a person may not engage in open air burning except under the following conditions:

• There is a natural or constructed fire break at least 10 feet wide completely around the material to be burned that is free of flammable materials;
• Adequate personnel and equipment are present to prevent the fire from escaping;
• At least one responsible person remains at the location of the fire until the last spark is out; and
• Burning occurs between the hours of 4 p.m. and 12 midnight, except when the ground is covered with snow the burning may occur at any time so long as all other requirements are met.

Additional tips for open air burning:

• Don’t burn on windy or very dry days, and do not burn near trees, buildings, or other flammable sources.
• Have hand tools and a ready water supply on site.
• Wet down the area around the fire before and after the burn.
• Burn at a safe distance from your home, shed or other structures.
• Never use an accelerant, such as lighter fluid, gasoline, or diesel fuel, to facilitate a fire. Use of these accelerants will dramatically increase your chance of injury.

Remember, items such as household trash, tires, roofing material, and treated lumber may not be burned in an open fire.

For more outdoor fire safety information, visit:

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Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.
13820 Point Lookout Road
P.O. Box 520
Ridge, MD 20680
Emergency Dial 911
Non-Emergency: 301-872-5571
E-mail: info@ridgevfd.org
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