Ice storm debris has been a nightmare for many area residents to deal with. But, it's not as much of a hassle as it is for firefighters who have had to extinguish flames that have gotten out of control due to people burning debris.
Though recent rains have helped contain many fires, that doesn't mean residents have free reign when it comes to burning brush. There is always the issue of safety to consider.
Heath Everett, the Salem fire chief, has a similar list of tips residents of the Fulton County area can follow to keep safe and avoid wildfires. This list is more specific to the area and what mistakes Everett has witnessed in the field.
He said there are five things residents can do to keep safe while burning brush. "The one thing that I see people do is they make their piles too big," Everett said. "So, the best way to cure that is to make piles small and manageable that you're going to burn. You get these things (brush piles) big and the intense amount of heat, and once they get going they're going. You can't get close enough to them to fight the fire at all. So, you want to make small piles. That's the number one thing to start with."
"Number two is try to put the piles within a reachable distance from water. In other words, try to put them where you can get to them with your water hose and water around them and be able to cool them down," Everett said.
"Number three would be location, as far as, not close to a structure, not under a power line, not near a field full of dead grass, which grass is getting greener now so that will help considerably," Everett said. "Not piling it (brush) up right in the middle of the woods around a bunch of leaves and a bunch of flammable material. Try to put it (the brush pile) out in a bare spot away from anything but within reach of water."
"Four, kind of goes with two, is having the equipment -- a rake, a leaf blower. Prepare you a spot (for your brush pile) with your rake and leaf blower to stack the stuff on. A lawnmower (can also be used). Anything to clean up that area that you're going to pile this in, and keep that equipment handy to where if you do have any trouble you'll have that there to use," Everett said. "The bulk of the tools we use in fighting grass fires, forest fires or whatever is a leaf blower, a rake and a backpack full of water. That's our primary weapons in the fight of grass fires."
"The fifth thing is, the most overlooked thing of all, is if you're going to burn on Monday watch the weather on Sunday," Everett said. "If you walk outside, and the wind is blowing hard enough to move limbs or blow leaves around, then it's not going to be a good day to burn. The very best weather to burn in is zero wind. Granted it's hard to find that. But, if you walk outside and it's hot and dry and it's 25 mph wind, don't start a fire. That's been a lot of the mix up is starting them (fires) on these high wind days."
Everett said the fire department is beginning to see fewer fires because the grass is starting to get greener. However, Everett warned that if it rains and the grass is wet the tops of the grass can still dry out and ignite if an ember touches them.
As for the burn ban in Salem city limits, Everett said he hopes to be able to lift the burn ban by April 13. He said by then people will have gotten rid of most of their debris and the grass should be greener by then.
Though burning is one way to quickly handle debris, Everett said, if residents have already made debris piles by the curb they should wait for the city to pick it up rather than burn it. The second deadline for residents to have their debris from the ice storm by the curb for the city to pick up is April 13. This will be the final pickup the city will do. Residents who have debris to be picked up after this date will have to find some other way to remove it.
Everett said those who plan on burning in the county and are not sure about the safety of their debris pile, they can call the Salem Fire Department or their local fire department and have someone check it out before they start burning. "I would sure rather go look at something that's not burning than have to go put it out later," Everett said.