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Leaf and debris burning: Know the rules

Photo: Maksym Belchenko/iStockphoto

Planning to burn leaves or other debris in your yard? Consider a few safety-related facts.

First and foremost, you must obey all state/local laws or restrictions regarding leaf or debris burning.

The Virginia Department of Forestry cautions that some places restrict it completely, while other areas of the country impose specific rules, including when during the year you can legally burn debris, specific precautions to take when doing so, and how to properly extinguish burn fires.

The California Wildland Fire Coordinating Group recommends checking with your local fire station or air quality management agency before burning, as well as checking to see if you first need to obtain a burn permit.

If you’re allowed to burn leaves or debris, the Virginia DOF recommends following these tips:

  • Never burn debris or leaves on dry, windy days.
  • Refrain from burning large piles of debris; instead, burn small piles and add to a pile only as it burns down.
  • Burn in a covered receptacle, and ensure the surrounding area is clear of dry grass and weeds.
  • Keep water, a shovel and a rake nearby.
  • Be prepared to call 911 if your fire escapes its enclosure. Don’t try to suppress the fire unless it can be easily done with the water, shovel and rake.

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