Fire Season

by Dana Kester-McCabe

This time of year many of us enjoy a good fire. It used to be that everyone burned leaves and the resulting aroma was practically a signal that it was almost Thanks Giving.

This practice has not completely gone away but more and more people have found the advantage of turning those leaves into beneficial mulch. And here on Delmarva, as in many other places, local counties and municipalities now have ordinances regulating open fires. A good general rule is that if you live in a town open fires are often not permitted and if you live in a rural area they are. But there are exceptions and limitations, so be on the safe side and check your county or city website for the rules where you live.

The next thing to do is check the weather. Never build a fire when gusting wind is expected. We do not hear about wildfires here on Delmarva very often. But, they do make the news a few times every year.

If you are burning leaves it is a good idea to keep your pile 200 feet away from the property line, trees, and other structures. Keep a metal rake and a working hose handy to keep the fire contained. Needless to say you should never leave the fire unattended, and kids should always be supervised around fires.

It is a good idea, once your fire has reduced everything to ash, to dowse it with a healthy bit of water. Sometimes the coals underneath a large burn pile will remain active for several days so be sure to go back and stir and water it until you are sure it is completely out.

If you are using a fire pit, place it on bare ground, stone, asphalt, or masonry patios. Never use them on a wood deck. Keep them away from awnings, covered porches, and low hanging trees. Use a wire cover to help reduce flying embers. And do not use lighter fluid to light your fire. It smells bad and can create a risk of flash ups. Learn how to build a proper fire using tinder and kindling instead.

The main reason people find it hard to build a fire is that their wood is wet or there isn't enough room between the sticks and logs to allow oxygen to fuel the fire. Also split logs work much better than large whole logs. The basic theory is to start small and work your way to bigger pieces of wood.

Begin with a pile of kindling: small twigs, dry leaves, or pine needles. Next, add a loose thatched layer of tinder - small sticks which are less than an inch round. Then build a sort of structure with a few smaller logs leaving access to some of the kindling. The T-P model seems to be the easiest. Light the kindling with a match.

Once the kindling has caught it will start to burn the tinder and then the logs. Once the smaller logs are actively burning add more logs on top one at a time.

Then get ready to tell a tale or two. In many ways we have not progressed much past our primitive ancestors. Sitting around a good fire with good company telling stories makes a cold night magical. Oh and a cup of cocoa is nice too.

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