Don't let a winter burn come back to life - Alberta Farmer Express

Best Winter Burning Practices

The risk of a wildfire doesn’t end when wildfire season does – any time there is a fire on the land, there is a risk that it can spread.

Safe burning practices are always in season. If fires aren’t properly put out, they can spread and burn underground, under the snow and ice, all winter. Under the right conditions, these fires can re-emerge in the spring as wildfires.

Take the time to properly prepare your burn site. Know the requirements needed to be successful during your burn and how to properly extinguish your site.

Before You Burn

  • Ensure smoke warning signs are in place before burning within 1/2 KM (500m) of a Primary or Secondary highway, smoke signs are required. For more information on smoke management and to acquire signs, contact your local municipality or Alberta Transportation.
  • Read over the Recommended Practices for placement and instruction of a “Smoke Ahead” sign.

While Burning

  • Have someone monitoring the burn the entire time – if it escapes, immediately call 911
  • Only burn what you can control with the equipment and people you have available, and adjust your burning according to weather conditions.
  • Build it right. Brush piles or debris windrows should be free of soil, with a fireguard or cleared land around it to stop the spread of fire.

After You Burn

  • Spread remaining material within the pile and soak with water as required.
  • Check the area and ensure both heat and smoke are no longer being produced by the pile – it should be cool to the touch.
  • Check your burn site multiple times in the following weeks to ensure it has not reignited.

Smoke Safety

The lower fire hazard in winter is a safer time to consider doing your burns. There are still some necessary precautions to take before burning, like monitoring the weather to ensure smoke from your burn won’t negatively impact surrounding areas.

When Burning in Winter

  • Refrain from burning when an inversion* is in place or is forecast.
  • Actively manage burn projects to reduce disposal time and smoke impacts.
  • Burning debris in stages will allow you to adapt to changing weather conditions and reduce smoke.
  • Monitor weather conditions: lower temperatures and lighter wind speeds can result in stronger inversions. The ideal conditions for burning are typically days with average temperatures and wind speeds over 5 km/h.
  • Ensure good snow cover in the burn area (more than 15 cm).


*Temperature inversions occur when a layer of warm air traps cool air near the Earth’s surface.  Since warm air rises, air under the inversion cannot escape because it is cooler than air higher up.  Smoke and pollution get trapped near the ground.  This is the inverse of what normally happens*

Safe burning practices are always in season – don’t let your winter burn come back to life in the spring