Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
SFM Logo

State Fire Marshal

A Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety

fall fire safety: what you need to know

By Jim Smith
State 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 burning leaves.

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.