Burning brush

I saw last night’s news report of a man that used an oil mixture to burn brush around his home, and consequently caught himself on fire, burning 50 percent of his body. This is a much more common occurrence than you may realize. Either a person picks the wrong time to burn, too dry and windy, causing the fire to spread beyond what was intended to be burned or the person gets burned, due to the accelerant that is used. Some use old motor oil, diesel fuel, gasoline or a combination of the three. Each of these fuels has different ignition temperatures, with gasoline being the more dangerous accelerant that a person might use. A big problem with gasoline is that it rapidly vaporizes and spreads beyond where it was poured. The gasoline vapors are flammable, and a flash fire can occur a distance from the intended brush pile.

Before burning anything, you must first know the burn laws for your city or county. Some localities do not allow any burning at all, therefore all brush and trash must be hauled to the dump. Other localities allow limited burning of certain things at certain times, and some may require burn permits before burning. Some localities are only regulated by State Forestry burn regulations, and have no other ordinances concerning burning. An example is that Chesterfield County allows no burning of trash. Land clearing debris can be burned, but only after a permit has been obtained. Again, it is important to know the burn regulations for your locality, and follow them explicitly.

Once you know the burn laws, it is your responsibility to safely control whatever you decide to burn. Safe burning means burning only that which is meant to be burned. Burning on dry, windy days or days when the fire danger is high, could easily start a fire that rapidly gets out of control. If the weather permits, then safe burning means that you have a means of extinguishing the fire readily available. Safe burning also means that you take every precaution to prevent your clothing or the clothing of others from catching on fire. The use of accelerants, as previously stated, could cause you or your clothing to catch fire much quicker. Remember, if your clothing does catch fire, do not run; instead, stop, drop and roll.

I know of four incidents, right off the top of my head, where using accelerants burned people. The most recent was the one reported last night, which I believe actually occurred on Tuesday. I knew of a firefighter and a pastor who were burned using gasoline to burn brush. When I was serving as the Community Programs Coordinator and PIO for Chesterfield Fire & EMS, I was called to the scene of an incident where children were playing with gasoline and matches. The end result was that a three-year-old received burns on his legs, after having gasoline spilt on his pants. Most people do not plan to have their clothes catch on fire or a fire get out of control, but it happens. You must be prepared for the unexpected, and take the necessary precautions. The gentleman that received burns to 50 percent of his body is now in a burn center, and has a long and difficult road to recovery ahead of him. My prayers are with him and his family. Do everything possible to keep this from happening to you.       


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