By Jim SmithState Fire Marshal
Autumn: the time of year when the leaves change to a thousand
shades of brilliant color … then fall down into heaps in your yard. In rural
Minnesota, it is very common to rake these leaves up into a pile and burn them.
The smell of burning leaves actually takes me back to my childhood, when the
whole neighborhood had burn-barrels going on a Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately, around this time every year, we receive reports from hospitals of severe burn injuries that occurred while
burning leaves and wild grass. Most unfortunate is the number of fatalities we
have seen over the past few years because someone’s fire got away from them and
trapped them in the ensuing fire.
As we move into the autumn months, please remember that even
routine of chores can have devastating outcomes. If you are burning your leaves
in a pile, always check with the DNR
for local fire conditions. Never burn your leaves on a windy day. Always have a
means of extinguishing small fires that “escape” your primary burn. Humans
cause approximately 98 percent of wildfires in Minnesota. As a rule of thumb, keep
children at least 3 feet away from any container you are using to burn your
leaves and grasses, and keep them at least 10 feet away from an open pile of
Finally, if you love camping in the great outdoors as much
as I do, many of you might be looking at a weekend camping getaway to marvel at
the wonderful colors. Never forget that fire safety needs to follow you
wherever you go. More than 50 wildfires are started each year in Minnesota by
campfires that are not completely extinguished, too large, or unattended.
Have fun outdoors this fall season. But remember to watch
your children at all times while conducting an open burn, and have an
extinguishing agent (water) close by. Do not make a fall season tradition spiral
downwards into a family tragedy.