Frank J. Buchman

Cowboy • Horseman • Writer

Dressing Safely Important During A Prescribed Burn

Before conducting a prescribed burn to improve pastures or clear ditches or other areas, it is important to make sure everyone working around the fire is outfitted properly to help ensure their safety.

Prepare firebreaks, have all the tools needed on site, and ensure the weather conditions are just right.

Extension experts have offered advice on clothing and personal protective equipment.

Wearing a helmet or other fireproof head covering can protect the wearer from falling embers. Helmets offer the best protection and allow face shields or shrouds to be attached to them.

At a minimum, a cap will help protect against embers and keep the hair out of the way. Make sure whatever is worn on the head is non-flammable, will not melt, and is fire and heat resistant.

Safety glasses or goggles block floating debris and embers from damaging the eyes and also help reduce the impacts of smoke damage. People may be more likely to leave glasses on, and experts say they provide smoke protection similar to goggles.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants during a burn and keep sleeves and pant legs rolled down. They should be free of rips or holes and made from fire resistant or non-flammable material such as cotton or wool.

Do not wear any synthetic materials such as nylon near a fire. It can melt or ignite, causing severe burns.

One-piece, fire-resistant jumpsuits can be worn over clothing during a burn, but you should still avoid wearing nylon or synthetic materials underneath.

Wear gloves at all times when working a prescribed fire. They should be all leather and free of holes. Choose leather gloves that are chrome tanned most work gloves rather than oil tanned, which can shrink in extreme heat and cause burns.

Again, do not wear any gloves made all or partially of synthetic material or canvas.

To give you an idea of the best footwear option, most federal agency workers are required to wear eight-to-10-inch tall, all-leather, lace-up boots with Vibram-type soles when working near a fire. Wear what is comfortable to walk a distance over uneven terrain.

Make sure all footwear is puncture resistant and made of non-flammable, heat-resistant materials. Do not wear rubber boots or other boots with rubber or synthetic components.

Face shields, hoods, and shrouds can be used to keep heat off of your ears, face, and neck when working around a fire. Clear face shields can be attached to a helmet and flipped up when not needed. Hoods cover the ears, hair, and neck.

Again, make sure they are made of fire-resistant and heat-resistant material with no synthetic components. Anyone with facial hair needs to be extra vigilant about wearing face protection.

Long hair should be tied back and braided, if possible, to keep it out of the fire and out of the face. If it is long enough, tucking it inside the back of the shirt provides extra protection.


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