Backyard Burn Pile Safety


Survival Quiz #56

( – When starting a burn pile, how far away from structures should it be?

  • 10 feet
  • 25 feet
  • 50 feet
  • 100 feet

Answer: At least 50 feet. Here’s why…

Burn piles are a traditional way to get rid of brush, lawn trimmings, and downed tree limbs, at least for those who live in rural areas. When starting a burn pile, there are some protocols that are necessary to ensure the fire doesn’t get out of control. No one wants to be responsible for starting a wildfire that consumes thousands of acres — or costs someone their life.

Before You Burn

Before building a burn pile and setting it aflame, there are a few precautionary steps that need to be taken first. Begin by researching the local rules regarding backyard burning. Not all areas have actual laws covering this, but knowing the do’s and don’ts is better than getting slapped with a fine.

Once the local regulations have been determined (if any), go about setting up the burn pile. The area should be flat and wide, with no overhanging power lines or trees. The chosen location should also be at least 50 feet away from the home or any other structures, such as sheds, fences, or neighboring houses.

Next, remove any flammable debris from the immediate area surrounding the burn pit. Clearing the area will help prevent the fire from spreading out of control in an emergency. Have a hose ready to go nearby to put out any fires that may flare up outside of the burn zone. Keep a shovel at the ready to toss dirt on unexpected fires as this will smother the flames.

When building the burn pile, keep it small. Larger fires increase the potential for embers to spit out further distances. Additional material can be added later as the fire burns through what is there.

Lastly, check the weather. Never burn on especially dry or windy days, as these are the perfect conditions to allow a fire to burn out of control. Many areas will prohibit burning during certain times of the year, or on days when the risk of uncontrolled fire is high. Again, this is why it is important to check with the county before burning.

During and After the Burn

Once the burn pile is ignited, do not leave the fire unattended. Stay with the blaze until all of the desired materials have been burnt. Doing so will help ensure that the fire remains controlled and doesn’t spread beyond the designated area.

After the fire has done its duty, stay with it until the embers have been extinguished. Pouring water on the site until it stops producing smoke is a good way to make sure the fire is completely out. When the coals are cool to the touch, it should be safe to leave the area unattended.

Fire is an incredibly useful tool and has helped keep humans alive since the Stone Age. That said, it is also incredibly destructive and is capable of burning hundreds of thousands of acres when uncontrolled. When faced with a wildfire, knowing how to escape is vital to survival. See how to survive this scenario by checking out our article Where to Go from a Wildfire.

~Here’s to Your Survival!

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