Now last week’s snowstorm is history, it’s time to finish controlled burning to prepare fields and grassland for spring growth. State Fire Marshal Jim Kenkel says if you see smoke, it may not be a wildfire. Usually it’s a landowner who wants to get rid of some grass but the Department of Natural Resources also sometimes will burn some publicly owned land to remove old vegetation so new plants can grow. The state fire marshal’s office recommends you first give your local fire chief or communications center a call and let them know what you’ll be doing, so calls don’t come in and cause unnecessary trips by emergency responders. Kenkel says landowners planning a controlled burn shouldn’t assume they can set a fire and then leave it to burn itself out.You should have provisions available to put the fire out in case it gets out of control, and to make it do what you want it to do. Don’t burn on a windy day if possible, and Kenkel says wise planners will do some “back burning” to remove the flammable material at the end of the field where they want their main fire to die out once it’s finished. Say the wind is blowing from south to north — begin by back-burning a small amount on the north end of your field, and then you can start the main fire on the south end and use the wind to help your controlled burn proceed. If a controlled burn gets out of control, Kenkel says you may be liable for the cost of property damaged by the fire you set.
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