Given the fire season experienced in the foothills and mountains of southern Tulare County during August and September 2020, it may be inconceivable that anyone would want to light a match to vegetation and create smoke. Who woulda thunk it possible?
But, then again, it became ever more apparent this year that there is a huge fuel load of dead and drought-stricken vegetation that needs to be cleared and disposed of in order to protect residences as well as promote ecosystem health in the various climate zones. Oaks and manzanitas are struggling in the foothills; there are entire hillsides (mostly south-facing) with standing dead trees.
Debris burning needs to be balanced with air quality on these beautiful bluebird days of winter. That’s where burn permits and “burn days” come in. Learn how to properly conduct a vegetation burn by reading below Consider the community and your neighbors when burning: no garbage is allowed to be burned, there are restrictions on the size of a residential burn pile, and there is a seven-hour window of time on a permissible burn day to complete the burn.
Burn permits for the current season may be obtained at the Cal Fire Station in Three Rivers. It is a self-registration process; fill out the form in triplicate and keep your copy. Once in possession of a burn permit, you must still verify that it is a permissible burn day prior to burning. Contact the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District at 559-230-6062 or visit online for the day’s burn status.
Cooler temperatures, higher humidity, and the chance of winter weather have helped to begin to diminish the threat of wildfire. But as all California residents know, fire is serious business and can be destructive and deadly. So property owners and residents must use extreme caution while conducting debris or agriculture burns, follow all guidelines provided, and maintain control of the fire at all times. Individuals can be held civilly and/or criminally liable for suppression costs, damages, and other penalties for allowing a fire to escape their control and/or burn onto neighboring property or any other act considered negligent and results in the escape of a fire.
Agriculture burns must be inspected by CAL FIRE prior to burning until the end of the peak fire season. Inspections may be required for burns other than agriculture burns. This can be verified by contacting the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
Pile Burning Requirements
—Burns are allowed only on days authorized by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
—On authorized days, burning is allowed between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. only.
—Even if it is an authorized burn day, permittees may not burn when winds are strong enough that burning would be considered unsafe. (If leaves are in constant motion on a tree or bush, it is too windy to burn.)
—Only dry, natural vegetative material such as leaves, pine needles and tree trimmings may be burned. No trash or treated lumber.
—The burning of trash, painted wood, or other unnatural debris is not allowed.
—Piles may not be larger than four feet in diameter and height. Add to the pile as it burns down but do not exceed this 4×4′ size.
—Clear a 10-foot perimeter down to bare soil around the pile(s).
—Keep a shovel and a water source nearby to suppress the fire if necessary.
—An adult is required to be in attendance of the fire at all times. Fires may not be unattended.
Alternatives to Burning
To eliminate the chance of a fire spreading, to reduce pollutants in the air, or if health reasons prevent you from burning, here are other ways to dispose of yard waste:
—Green waste facility (many landfills have reduced rates for green waste)
Safe residential pile burning of forest and foothills residue by landowners is a crucial tool in reducing fire hazards. State, federal, and local land management and fire agencies will also be utilizing this same window of opportunity to conduct prescribed burns aimed at improving forest health and resiliency on private and public lands.
For more information on burning, visit the CAL FIRE website.
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