Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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The Trouble With Tumbleweeds

This morning was nearly ideal conditions for doing another brush burn before our permit runs out at the end of May. I should have set the alarm for 4:30 (my normal Day Jobbe start time), but did manage to turn out at 6 AM, get a cup of coffee, and then go work on reducing hazardous burnable brush to safe piles of ash with Lisa. Lisa had already strung the garden hoses and sprayer and brought out the garden rake and shovel.

Conditions were ideal. There was virtually no wind other than an occasional light puff of breeze, and there were low clouds shading us from the rising sun. We managed to get rid of a flammable nuisance, and also some dry brush.

Good Riddance

We made good use of Dear Leader's self-congratulatory taxpayer-funded campaign mailer disguised as a cover letter for the CARES Act relief payment by using it to set off the brush fire.

Worth the Paper it was Printed On (Barely)

A couple of seconds earlier, this is what it looked like as Lisa hit it with the propane torch. I reckon I can say that, unlike my original opinion about the mailer, it was worth the paper on which it was printed. Barely.

Burn Pile Prep

For the past few days, I have been raking brush (mostly tumbleweeds, but also old dried out branches) into a pile and crushing the pile down to stay within the restrictions of our burn permit, which restricts the size of the burn pile for safety.

Brush Burn

As the pile burned down, I brought additional material to feed into it. There is what I call a "tumble trap" at the opposite end of the property (actually on the adjacent vacant lot) that has been attracting tumbleweeds, which get stuck and create a growing pile. Even worse, loose junk blows around and gets stuck on the pile as well.

If you've never been around areas where you have a lot of tumbleweeds, you may not realize just what nasty little firebombs they could be. With no wind, a water hose at the ready, and conditions being relatively safe, we decided to demonstrate what happens when you set a loose tumbleweed alight by dropping it onto the fire.

These things are dry and when not crushed down are mostly air. They go whoosh and burn instantly. In case of any wind to speak of, they blow away spreading embers, which can lead to huge range fires. In our case, the growing mountain of dry brush accumulating on our fence line makes us very nervous.

As the overcast began to burn off, we began to make the pile an ex-fire.

Brush Burn Aftermath

Lisa here is spraying the brush pile. What you're seeing here isn't smoke (we had that when the fire was burning, of course), but steam coming off what is still a pretty hot pile of ash even though it isn't showing any flame.

Safe Brush Burn

As Lisa plied the hose (also spraying down the surrounding areas in case there was a stray spark somewhere nearby), I repeatedly raked the growing pile of ashy mud until it formed a gooey mess that was wet and no longer warm to the touch.

We hope to do one more burn before the month ends. There's really only this one safe place to do the burns (everything else is too close to the house, cars, or other potentially flammable things), so I need to spend time this week raking up the rest of the tumble trap and other loose brush from the fence line and to drag it over to the burn area to form a new starting pile plus an extra pile a safe-but-convenient distance from the burn pile to make it easier to feed the rest of the burnables into the main fire.

We're not fire bugs. Disposing of this dry brush now means it is much less likely to catch fire when we're not standing nearby with a hose. We need to improve the defensible space around the house.
Tags: brush, fire, house

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