Last Friday, the knocked down a that burned about an acre-and-a-half in the Naugatuck State Forest. And on Tuesday, the department responded to a second brush that burned about 50-by-75 feet of land on Trefoil Drive.
Though nobody was injured in either incident - the causes of which are still under investigation - firefighters put themselves in harm's way to prevent a disaster. Now, they are urging residents to beware of high forest fire danger this time of year in an attempt to prevent any more forest damage or possible injuries to emergency responders.
Fire Chief Scott Pelletier, who also serves as the town’s fire marshal, says brush fires are typically prevalent this time of year because of dry dirt, dry sticks and strong winds. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection posts daily Forest Fire Danger reports. (Note: We will update that report every day on Oxford Patch until brush fire season dies down.)
Pelletier reminds residents that they must obtain a permit to burn any brush more than three-inches in diameter. They can do so by calling the fire marshal’s office at 203.881.5230 Monday through Thursday between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Any questions about open burning procedures can also be addressed to Pelletier's office.
Keith Nelsen, Oxford Fire Department's safety and training officer, said the public needs to be aware of how careless use of ignition sources - such as cigarettes and camp fires - can cause a fire that will spread quickly this time of year.
Forest Fire Prevention Tips
The DEEP's Forest Fire Control Office urges all who enjoy the use of Connecticut's parks, forests and open spaces, to use fires with caution and heed the following recommendations especially during forest fire season:
- Obey local laws regarding open fires, including campfires;
- Keep all flammable objects away from fire;
- Have firefighting tools nearby and handy;
- Carefully dispose of hot charcoal;
- Drown all fires;
- Carefully extinguish smoking materials.
For Connecticut homeowners, the following steps are suggested to protect your family members and home:
- Make a fire safe zone around your house. Clean flammable vegetation and debris from at least 30 feet around the house and any outbuildings;
- Prune away the lower limbs of evergreens that are within the fire safe zone. Evergreens catch fire easily during dry periods and burn quickly;
- Remove any limbs which overhang the roof or chimney;
- Regularly remove leaves and needles from gutters;
- Don't store firewood in the fire safe zone;
- Use fire resistant roofing materials;
- Make sure firefighters can find and access your home. Mark your house and roads clearly, and prune away limbs and trees along your driveway which don't allow fire truck access;
- Have an escape plan-- and practice it;
- Follow state and local open burning laws;
- Stay with outside fires until they are completely safe and dead out;
- Dispose of wood ashes in a metal bucket, soaking them with water before dumping them.
If you spot a forest fire, remain calm, go to the nearest telephone and dial 911 to report the fire as quickly as possible to your local fire department. Calmly tell the emergency dispatcher when you saw it and where you saw it. Stay on the telephone until the dispatcher tells you to hang up.
Open Burning Regulations
Open burning is the burning of any matter, where smoke and other emissions are released directly into the ambient air without passing through an adequate stack or flue.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and your local fire department limit open burning for public health and safety reasons. Open burning pollutes the air and can make it difficult for people with respiratory problems to breathe. Open burning can also create smoke and odor nuisances as well as health risks to nearby residents, particularly in densely populated areas.
The DEP encourages the use of recycling and alternate methods for disposal of brush and other types of solid waste:
- Recycle paper products whenever possible - General Recycling Information
- Yard debris, including grass, leaves and branches can be composted or mulched - Composting and Organics Recycling
- Recycle clean fill, concrete, rubble, and asphalt - Construction and Demolition Aggregate Recycling
- Use and dispose of treated wood products appropriately - Proper Disposal of Treated Lumber
Circumstances Under Which Open Burning may be Allowed in Connecticut
A resident may burn clean brush (3” in diameter or less) on the property where he or she resides with an open burning permit from the town's Local Open Burning Official. Residents must check with their town for permit requirements prior to burning.
A town may burn clean brush in its landfill, recycling center, or transfer station up to six times a year with a permit from the DEP.
Situations Where Open Burning is Not Allowed
Open burning of brush to clear land prior to construction or burning of construction debris, household trash, or leaves is prohibited.
Open burning is prohibited when the Air Quality Index (AQI) is forecast to be 75 or higher anywhere in the State.
- Oxford does not allow burning on Sundays or holidays
Open burning is prohibited when the Forest Fire Danger Index is rated High, Very High, or Extreme.
Complaints about open burning can be directed to the Air Complaints phone line at 860-424-3464.