In the springtime and early summer there isn’t much going on around the shop as far as building wooden toboggans and freight sleds. It is a nice break and time for outdoor projects. Like burning off the hay meadow that didn’t get cut last summer due to all the wet weather we had.

Setting up a controlled burn is an enjoyable process with elements of danger and excitement. But mostly it is a pleasant outdoor activity.

Last fall in anticipation for this burn I mowed around the perimeter of our 12 acre meadow to create a firebreak of short green grass. I wanted to burn it last fall but we never had the conditions. The mowed firebreak would still work well in this spring, providing the short grass that makes the fire really die, making it easily extinguishable with a hand held water sprayer.

To start the burn two people work as a team. One has a rake and drags dead grass with fire along the downwind edge and mowed firebreak, and the other with the water sprayer thoroughly extinguishing the fire as it burns into the short grass. It’s actually quite pleasant to do and of course there is plenty of time to visit on many subjects.

A little later my son and another friend joined us. We commenced setting the backfire in the opposite direction around the field. Making sure that the fire has been extinguished downwind of the fire burning upwind insures that you are creating and ever widening the secure firebreak. This is the critical element to a successful burning project, to prevent the fire from getting out of control into adjacent properties!

Each pair had a 4-wheeler loaded with extra water sprayer and jugs of water for refills. As the backfire gets wider and wider, almost a ¼ of a mile long! The fire now is getting to be something powerful to look at! It reminds me of the time old George O’Brien said to me over a burn: “hee…hee… you gotta little fire bug in you Johnnie!”

With one pair of fire starters at each end of the upwind boundary and the fire burning towards the center of the field, the view is impressive and can be seen for miles around. We are going to put an end to this quickly now and the peak of excitement comes when the two pairs of fire starters continue setting the fire along the upwind boundary towards each other. This fire is set right at the short grass fire break and is quickly extinguished burning upwind while the fire running downwind is becoming a roaring blaze racing towards the slowly burning backfire moving upwind.

In a matter of minutes the two fires collide. With nothing left to burn, they quickly die. Only plumes of smoke remain to rise from clumps of grasses smoldering … “Hee..hee…that went well!”


The smoldering remains of a burnt field contrasted with a sharp green lawn



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