burning a meadow

homequaker1(z6 PA)April 8, 2005

We have tried to get the fire department to burn our meadow the past 2 years. Last year we called too late. This year the weather did not cooperate

Is there a way to burn a meadow one's self? We have about 1 acre, and it really needs burning as it has just been mowed for the past 8 years.


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    Bookmark   April 8, 2005 at 11:41AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

i am surprised the fire department would even burn for you...usually they dont want to be responsible. i agree with Rudy that you should know what you are doing first. Some places require a permit and certfied fire chief be in charge. I would reccomend that you volunteer at a local nature center to participate in a burn or take a controlled burn workshop before you try it yourself.

there is prep work that needs to be done for fire breaks. And there is also proper wind speeds, wind direction, humidity, temperature, fuel load, where to start the back fire etc. etc. its not real hard but you should be familiar with those things....

    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 7:13AM
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homequaker1(z6 PA)

I appreciate the advice. It didn't occur to me that there might be workshops on controlled burns. I will look around.

I asked how to burn because burning every few years s mentioned so often as the best way of maintaining a meadow/prarie, but, no one explained how to go about it. I also wondered how people learned to burn.

We live in rural PA, and it seems fire departments around here will burn one's meadow if one can get into the queue and the weather cooperates. In exchange, we would make a donation to the (volunteer) fire dept.

I found a booklet about burning, from Prairie Moon Nursery:
"How to Manage Small Prairie Fires."

    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 7:35PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

In the interim, while you are on the list...mow. I think mowing is an acceptable alternative in the meantime. The Prairie Moon catalogue has a wealth of info for people who can't burn.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2005 at 10:24PM
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tewicks(z5 IL. & z5MO)

we did our burn this last weekend and I have 3.5 acres that we Burn, this went will with 3 of us and took 3.5 hrs. what we would say is find some place you can help do a burn. also you can check with other folks or schools that do burning and see if you can enlist help as you also give it. it should only take you 1 hr to burn.
this is our 2nd burn the first time we did 8 acres

    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 11:04AM
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John_Blakeman(z5/6 OH)

The key to safe burns is not fire management. The very first thing is fuel management. I'm an Ohio Certified Prescribed Fire Manager and am the fire boss on over a dozen fires each spring here in northern Ohio. But I won't go near a site that hasn't first (the entire previous growing season) been fuel-managed. In short, that means that a 25-40 ft green turf (lawn) border has been mowed around the entire prairie patch to be burned. If this is done, fires are very safe (in winds less than 12 mph). Anything else is a hazard to those with no experience.

Read closely the small fires booklet you mentioned. It's very, very good. But the most effective fire management techniques are fuel management techniques where you establish a wide, no-fuel border around everything. A prairie fire can't burn if there is no fuel. Burn in light winds and you are safe (with a wide fuel break).

Of course, be sure to conform to all open burning regulations of your jurisdiction. In Ohio, prairie burns require permission from the Ohio Division of Forestry (outside of cities, during spring and fall months), and a specific permit from the Ohio EPA.

Nothing rejuvenates a prairie like a good spring burn. I just burned about 80 acres in the last two weeks. We have another hundred or so to do. Burning weather will be perfect this week, so all will go well.

It is also very helpful to access the NOAA Fire Weather site at


Click on your area and find the "mixing height" datum. Burn only when it's 1600 ft or more. Lower mixing heights cause the smoke to lay on the ground. Burns when the mixing heights are 3000 ft or higher cause most of the smoke to go up at a high angle. You'd also like a "transport wind" of 9 mph or more. Don't burn when ground speed winds are more than 12 mph (unless you are experienced and know the character of properly set prairie fires -- with good, wide fuel breaks).

    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 9:06AM
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Jim_Nebr(z4 Nebr.)

We live in NE Nebraska and did our first burn on our meadow on March 29th. It went really well. We tried a burn last year, but there wasn't enough vegitation to keep the fire going. This year we had plenty of fuel on our 2 1/2 acre patch. Our lane borders the south, a county road borders the east, our lawn borders the west and a 15' wide mowed swath to the north. I had a burn permit from the local fire department, plenty of water hoses and a 15 gallon tank with a sprayer mounted on our riding mower.

The weather conditions were perfect, a sunny 70 degree day, NW winds 5 mph with an occassional gust to 10 mph. We began by starting a back burn from the SE corner going north along the east side next to road, then carefully burning from the NE corner going west along the mowed area, keeping the water handy, but didn't need that much to keep things under control. The occassional gust really moved the fire rapidly, and even though we had flames 15-20 feet high at times, by the time the fire reached our lane the lack of fuel caused the fire to die immediately. The whole experience lasted 45 minutes, with my son and I doing the entire burn. The local Fire Chief stopped by to see how things were going, but he left when he saw we had control of the burn. We were well prepared, and very respectful of the fire.

We had .75" of rain that night, and it's really greening up nicely. We were very lucky to have conditions as good as we did, and I would encourage burns where possible. But, do your research, have plenty of water available, plenty of help if unsure, and wide fuel breaks. Err on the side of caution, and if in doubt, mow.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 11:24PM
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homequaker1(z6 PA)

These additional posts are extremely helpful! Thanks.

We have wide green swaths around 3 sides of our meadow. Now that I know how important this is, we will create one on the remaining 4th side. In the meantime, we will read and follow up with NOAA, plus state and local regs. Maybe we can try a burn next spring.

Again, many thanks for sharing your experiences and information.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 12:12PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Homequaker..you can burn in the fall, too. There seem to be different schools of thought on what time of year to burn. Around here, there are burns in Spring and Fall. April

    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 10:02PM
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