As Wildfire Season Begins, Fire Officials Urge Prevention

Pointing to the Delta Range fire that burned 341 acres at Fort Devens last week, Devens Fire Chief Timothy F. Kelly, Chief Forest Fire Warden David Celino of the Department of Conservation & Recreation, and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey are asking for the public’s help in preventing outdoor fires, which start to increase in the early spring.

“As we saw last week, large wildland fires are labor-intensive and can severely tax regional firefighting resources,” said Chief Kelly. “Disposing of brush by burning it can be done safely if we follow all the rules and safety measures. We want everyone to enjoy the great outdoors, but we ask that you do it safely.”

“This is the time of year that we start to see outdoor fires begin to rise in New England,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “The snow has melted away and there’s plenty of dry vegetation and leaves to act as tinder. Combined with low humidity and high winds, these conditions make it easy for fires to start and very difficult for firefighters to contain them.”

“Open burning can be a factor in wildland fires, which is why it must be conducted according to safety restrictions,” said Chief Fire Warden Celino. “A sudden change in the wind while conducting open burning can push a fire beyond your ability to control it. Always be prepared to extinguish your fire immediately.”

According to Department of Conservation & Recreation data, there were more than 1,100 wildland fires on non-federal land in Massachusetts last year, which burned more than 1,600 acres. While the Delta Range fire was caused by munitions, more than 98% of wildland fires in Massachusetts are caused by human activity, officials said. Everyone can and should play a part in preventing them by using caution and common sense when conducting open burning, cooking on the barbecue, extinguishing smoking materials, or riding ATVs in wooded areas.

Open burning is governed by 310 CMR 7.07. In communities where it is allowed, the season ends on May 1. A permit from the local fire department in advance, and these permits can be rescinded. Burning can only take place when both air quality and fire conditions are acceptable.

Conduct Open Burning Safely

• Burn between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. with a permit from the fire warden (usually the local fire chief).

• Burn only when air quality is acceptable for burning. Local authorities will call the MassDEP Air Quality Hotline at (800) 882-1497 or visit MassAir Online to find out if it is.

• Burn only on your own property as close as possible to the source of material to be burned, at least 75 feet away from all dwellings and away from utility lines.

• Have fire suppression tools handy. Keep a fire extinguisher or charged garden hose nearby, along with a shovel and a rake.

• An adult must constantly monitor the fire. Leaving burning unattended is a reason to revoke burning permits.

• Use paper and kindling to start a fire and progressively add larger pieces of wood. Parts of a leftover Christmas tree may also be used.

• Never use gasoline, kerosene, or any other flammable liquid to start a fire. The risk of injury in these cases is too high.

• Burn one small pile at a time and slowly add to it. This will help keep the fire from getting out of control.

• Burn the fire down to the coals, drown them with water, spread them out, and then drown them again. Completely extinguish the fire before leaving. Open burning is prohibited at all times in Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Malden, Medford, New Bedford, Newton, Somerville, Springfield, Waltham, Watertown, West Springfield, Worcester.

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