How to Prevent Brush Fires

The beginning flame of a brush fire.

Brush fires are a major problem during warm and windy seasons. Not only do they cost taxpayers millions of dollars in property damage, but they also endanger lives. Unfortunately, people are the cause of the vast majority of brush fires when they fail to follow basic outdoor safety. If you live in an area prone to brush fires, here's a quick guide on how to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Use Caution When Operating Outdoor Equipment

You should always be careful when operating outdoor equipment during a fire season. When operating your lawn mower, keep an eye out for metal objects and rocks, which can create sparks when hit by mower blades. To further prevent any potential fires caused by sparks, attempt to get all of your mowing done before 10 in the morning. This will prevent the combination of dry grass, wind, and potential sparks. Always use the recommended fuel for the lawn mower engine and use proper safety measures when around dry brush. If you notice a fire while operating equipment outside, report it to your local fire station immediately.

Practice the Three-Step Method with Camp Fires

A camp fire by a lake.

Double-check with your local forest service before you start a camp fire. Some areas require a special permit to build fires. When constructing a camp fire, always use level ground and clear away any brush that might ignite with a small spark. As a rule of thumb, there should be about 10 feet of clear space around the fire. Once you're finished using the fire, follow the three-step method of drowning, stirring, and feeling. First, pour a bucket of water onto the fires to extinguish the flames. Then, stir the fire using a shovel and throw some fresh dirt on top to smother any remaining embers. Lastly, feel the area with your hand to see if it is fully out. If the area is still warm, repeat the process until it feels cool to the touch. This technique may seem laborious, but it's essential to preventing a brush fire.

Use Proper Burning Techniques on Your Property

A trash can fire.

Follow proper safety measures whenever burning trash outdoors. Check with your local weather station before you start burning to make sure there is no burn warning in effect. Always burn inside of a metal container. Clear space around the container and clear any low hanging branches overhead. Move the container if it does not have proper clearance with the surrounding area. Once the fire is going, do not leave it unsupervised and always keep a fire extinguisher on hand in case nearby vegetation catches on fire. Keep your cell phone handy in case you need to call the fire department to help extinguish the flames. Proper burning technique for trash will prevent brush fires and keep your property safe.

Practice Vehicle Safety

Many brush fires are started because of improper use of vehicles. You should avoid driving your car or truck over dry grass because the exhaust is hot enough to start a fire. Keep tow chains away from the road and make sure parts of your vehicle, such as the muffler, are not low enough to make contact with he road. Keep a fire extinguisher in your car at all times in case you accidentally start a roadside fire. Finally, ensure your brakes are not overly worn as metal to metal contact can generate sparks and cause a fire.

Additional Safety Tips to Prevent Brush Fires

  • Always keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children and properly instruct them on fire safety.
  • If you are a smoker, avoid tossing cigarettes out of the window and always place butts in an appropriate container.
  • If you are working with machinery that generates sparks, try and do the work indoors instead of outside.
  • If you notice anyone behaving suspiciously or attempting to start a malicious fire, contact the local law enforcement as quickly as possible.
  • If you do witness an arson attempt, take note of the person’s appearance and what they are driving. Because of the dangerous nature of fire, the law usually levies heavy penalties on people who commit arson, including possible jail time and large fines.