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From the March 2011 Battle Mountain News

posted Jul 3, 2014, 12:33 PM by Joe Christy

Burn Pile Workshop

On Saturday, February 19, fifteen doughty Dooners braved the snow to join Betsy Hibbits of the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District (MBUAPCD), and Josh Agustin, Scott Kniffin and Rob Sherman of CAL FIRE for the Fire Safe Council's Best Practices for Burning Brush Workshop.

First, Betsy described MBUAPCD regulations for backyard burns and how the MBUAPCD determines what is and isn't a burn day. The prerequisites for a burn day are a good surface mixing layer in the atmosphere 1500' to 3000' deep and a 5 mph wind within that layer. The high pressure ridge perched over California for most of January and early February compressed the mixing layer below the minimum, which is why we had so many beautiful days when burning was not allowed. To determine when it is permissible to burn, call 1-800-225-2876 (CAL-BURN) after 4:30 pm the day before you intend to burn.

The MBUAPCD's mission doesn't include fire safety though, so Rob Sherman followed up with an overview of CAL FIRE's rules and recommendations for burning debris. Build a fire less than 4' in diameter, surrounded by a 10' scratch line cleared of flammable material and vegetation adjacent to you brush pile and feed the fire slowly to maintain an efficient, hot fire. Attend your fire, with a working hose, shovel, and metal rake, until it is out.

Finally we left our shelter during an intense flurry. Peeling back the tarp over the brush, we built a loose burn pile of dry sticks and observed how easy it is to ignite and maintain an efficient fire, even in driving sleet and snow. Once the fire was burning well enough that steam started rising from those closest to the fire, we doused the fire til it was cold, then beat a retreat to warmth and dryness.