Brush burning safety

Brush and grass burning

Careless brush and grass burning is the cause of many wildfires. There are other ways to deal with grass and brush, such as chipping or composting. Grass burning is not recommended.

Under the Forests Act, if you light a fire, you are responsible for it. If your fire gets out of control, you may be liable for the cost of fighting the fire and the destruction of others' property. You may face criminal penalties for violating burning regulations.

Brush burning

If you must burn brush, winter is the best time to do it. The woods are more protected from fire with a blanket of snow. You can also pick your day when weather conditions are best for smoke to disperse so as not to annoy the neighbours.

Spring is not a good time to burn brush. Unless there were a number of large snowfalls over the winter, dead grass and other vegetation in your yard can dry out quickly becoming flammable as early as mid-March. In fact, the highest number of wildfires occur in April and May, usually because of grass or brush burning that got out of control.

Some municipalities require a burning permit year round. Please check with your local municipal office or fire department.

Brush burning tips

If you must burn brush, do it safely.

  • Gather and pile brush in an open area away from over-hanging branches. Cover it with a tarp. Keep it covered for at least two months before you burn.
  • When you are ready to burn, choose a calm winter day (wind 10 km/h and below) with snow on the ground. Wind can blow sparks or ash towards structures or vegetation.
  • Use a barrel to burn small brush. Make sure it is good condition.
  • Set up the barrel well away from structures and remove all vegetation within 3 metres around it.
  • Use steel rods or pipes to keep the burning material off the bottom of the barrel.
  • Put a metal, 5mm mesh screen over the opening of the barrel.
  • Keep fire fighting tools on hand (a charged garden hose, shovel, rake, buckets).
  • Remove the tarp from the brush pile. Place some paper all around the base of the pile and light it.
  • Do not burn household garbage, tires, oil or other accelerants.
  • Soak ashes well and let them sit in a metal container for at least 24 hours before disposing them in a pit.

Grass burning

Burning grass is not recommended. It is destructive and dangerous:

  • grass fires burn hot and fast; they spread quickly, even around and over patches of snow
  • they kill small animals like mice and voles and destroy their habitat
  • grass fires destroy some bird nests and eggs
  • grass fires that get out of control can also kill larger animals and destroy their habitat
  • it can take years for animals and their habitat to recover from grass fires

Burning grass is not as beneficial as people think. Grass burning:

  • reduces grass yield by 50% to 70%
  • makes it easier for weeds to grow
  • does not make the grass greener
  • does not provide nutrients in the soil