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Around here, it’s a pretty good time of year for burning brush. There is not a lot of foliage pushing out and it’s been wet and breezy. So, how do you burn a brush pile?

Obviously, if you’re going to burn a green pile, you’ll need an accelerant. People recommend everything from oil, gas, and diesel to a car tire. As you can imagine… none are very friendly to the planet and burning tires is illegal. If the pile’s dry, a paper bag stuffed with newspaper should do it.

However, I don’t personally believe every little fire is killing the planet (if I did, I wouldn’t heat with wood) and there is nothing wrong with burning brush piles. Just do it right. My tips are:

  • Let it sit. Even a few months will help dry out small trunks and limbs. Days if it’s weeds, thistle and burdock.
  • Look up and around. Don’t burn under power lines or near any buildings. Just one hot ember in the hay loft could be a disaster.
  • Light on the windward side. If you have a small breeze, it will get the fire large and hot fast, but also dictate the burn direction. If you light too far to the leeward, you might only burn half the pile.
  • Add some top-down kindling. Throw some weeds, leaves, anything dry and easy to burn on top to get a good flame going. Logic says put all your kindling on the bottom, but if your larger brush doesn’t catch, the fire will just collapse. Put kindling on top and bottom too keep it burning.
  • Get a leaf blower. You can’t control the wind… unless you have a blower. If your fire is smoldering with no flame, hit it with a blower.
  • Burn in stages. We had brush all over after the clearing. We found it easiest to let the pile burn down to hot embers and then rake what didn’t burn back over the top. Once you get it going, keep adding to it.

Below is a video of a brush pile fire from this last weekend. It was lit with just one piece of packing paper directly upwind. It was willow, which by nature is very wet and green, and you can see it was burning just fine – this only about 10 minutes after lighting it and it’s half the size. I think I had a few planks of old, rotted barn wood on it too that I tore out when building the meat bird coop.

*If you do need help getting a green fire going, PLEASE don’t use gas. There is no possible way to use it safely. Try a DuraLog.