Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Burn Baby Burn

Our residential burn permit, which can be used only for burning yard waste, expires at the end of May. (The burn season is October through May. A seasonal burn permit costs $15 from the North Lyon County Fire Protection District.) While we've periodically trimmed brush since last summer, we never had gotten around to actually burning it, and time had run out. We'd planned on doing it several of the past few weekends, but rain (and earlier in the year, snow) put paid to those plans. I had today off (mostly), so after doing a small bit of Day Jobbe from 4-5 AM, we set out to deal with the accumulated brush just after daylight. It was pleasant enough weather for the job.

Brush Pile

This was the accumulated brush that was to be burned. The pile here is slightly too large to be burned in situ by the terms of our permit, so we would need to make a new pile a few meters away and bring debris to it. We established a burn pile in the same spot on which we did our last yard debris burn. It did not bother us to have to move brush. We wanted to probe the pile anyway and make sure we weren't burning up chipmunks or birds that have periodically been sheltering in the pile over the past few months.

Safety First

We had set out the hose last night, and Lisa brought out the yard tools this morning. Of course, common sense (and the permit conditions) required that we have a way to put out the fire.

Propane Burner

The Weed Dragon burner attaches to a propane bottle strapped to the hand cart and makes it very easy to start the fire.

Fire Started

Despite there having been some pretty heavy rain only a week ago, the brush from the top of the bigger pile lit up very quickly.

Monitoring the Fire

While I went to the other end of the property to get additional brush to burn, Lisa fed material from the big pile (now rapidly growing smaller) to the burn pile.

Ex Brush Pile

It did not take too long to burn almost everything from the big pile. What was left was too damp and compost-like to burn. In the left distance along the fence is more brush that we're going to need to get the power tools out to cut properly and build a new pile that well have to wait until October for burning. But at least the brush will be away from the fence line. Defensible space is important.

Slow Burn

After an hour or so, the pile started to burn down.

Slow Burn

We periodically tried to cut into the base of the fire so the light morning breeze would encourage what was left to burn rather than smoulder.

Encouraging the Fire

Lisa used the Weed Dragon to try and encourage what was left of the burnable material to burn. She didn't have to use the striker to light the burner. She just turned it on and got it close to the embers and it lit right off again.

Time to Soak

Burning is only permitted between sunrise and Noon, and never in high winds. Winds are usually calm in the morning, but can get quite gusty in the afternoon, and the terms of the permit require that all fires be completely out by 2 PM.

Here Comes the Hose

That wasn't going to be a problem for us, as we were ready to shut it down shortly after 7 AM. Lisa got the hose with the sprayer nozzle and brought it over to the burn pile.

The Power of Steam

Although the fire had stopped producing visible smoke, it was clearly still quite hot, as when Lisa started spraying, steam went everywhere.

Drowning the Fire

My father was a forest ranger and I lived part of my life on US Forest Service bases. I'd be a disgrace to my family and to Smokey Bear's public service announcements if I didn't properly put out this fire. I repeatedly stirred the fire and Lisa drowned it with the hose. We did this several times, digging down to dry earth and repeating the water treatment until all that was left was this black mud that was cool to the touch.

Safeing the Area

Just in case a stray ember had gotten away from the fire and was lurking in drier material nearby, Lisa also sprayed down the surrounding area, including the original brush pile.

With the brush burned, we put away most of the tools, but left the hose and nozzle out in case a hot spot appeared despite our efforts. We'll put those away this evening. While we waited for this morning's California Zephyr (now restored to daily service, hooray!) to come by, we sat on the porch and admired our work. I then spied a visitor on the porch.

Porch Lizard

This little lizard came out from a gap in the porch boards and sat there for a while until I needed to go inside and disturbed it, whereupon it dove for cover. I noticed it had peeked back out again as I came back outside, but this time it stayed just peeking out of its hole. I'm sure there's lots of bugs for the lizard to eat, and I'm happy to have the lizards around eating them.

That's a pretty good day's work done, in our opinion, and I'm glad we did it first thing in the morning before it got hot, because burning brush is hot work even in cold weather. I was sweating it up in my coveralls by the time we got done, and I picked up some mild sunburn on my face and neck even from just a couple of hours of morning exposure.
Tags: brush, fire, house, lisa, lizards

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