Troop 21 - St Joseph, MO
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Troop 21 - St Joseph, MO

Posted on Thursday, October 10, 2013...

Troop 21 in the News - Fire Safety

Troop 21 was recently included in an article in the St. Joseph, Missouri News Press regarding fire safety.  

Safety is top priority during this favorite fall pastime.

Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 11:55 pm | Updated: 8:20 am, Thu Oct 10, 2013.

By Brooke Wilson St. Joseph News-Press |


As the leaves are turning and the days are giving way to cooler weather, many people find comfort next to the crackling of a warm fire. Whether it’s a large group gathering around a bonfire outside city limits or an intimate evening by a small backyard fire pit, safety is of utmost importance.

Fire inspector Jason Ziph reminds residents that bonfires are illegal within St. Joseph limits. However, small recreational fires are allowed if they’re contained, monitored closely and kept under a certain size (a width and flame height of about three feet). Burn only wood, not trash or yard waste, and make sure it’s at least 15 feet away from the house or combustible materials.



He says the fire department doesn’t get very many complaints about recreational fires, but homeowners must be aware that neighbors might object to seeing something burning in the backyard next door and could take action to address their concerns.






“If you’re having a small fire that’s fine, but if someone calls and complains, the fire department still might come out and make you put it out,” Mr. Ziph says.






Tonie Jones is the Scoutmaster for local Boy Scout Troop 21. His troop goes on weekend camping trips at least once a month, so all his Scouts are well-versed in fire safety. One of the first things he teaches them is to determine if the weather is safe. If it’s too dry or too windy, it isn’t a good idea to build a fire. Also, consider what may be lurking overhead, especially if you’re planning on building a large bonfire.






“The area must be clear around and above the fire. It’s common for people to forget about what’s above a fire. ... We ensure that the Scouts in the troop ‘look up, look down and all around’ before considering if the area is safe,” Mr. Jones writes in an e-mail interview.






This means keeping the fire pit out from under hanging tree limbs, power lines or awnings. If using a metal fire pit or a clay chiminea, like the ones you find at home and garden stores, make sure they are elevated off the ground and free from rust, cracks or moisture.






When you build and light your fire, Mr. Jones says woods like poplar, silver maple, willow, cottonwood and pine are all good for burning, as long as they’ve been properly dried.






“Backyard fire builders should avoid wood such as Osage orange (hedge wood) since it produces a lot of sparks that could be dangerous for people sitting around a fire. Freshly cut wood is often heavy and still contains too much moisture to burn effectively and can be quite frustrating,” he says.






An easy way to build a lasting fire is to arrange the wood in a teepee formation and use dry twigs as tinder and kindling underneath. If you’re having trouble getting the fire started, Mr. Jones says to resist the urge to use lighter fluid or other types of liquid fuel, as they are highly combustible and prone to explosions or flame flashes if overused.






“A simple cotton ball with Vaseline will start easily and burn for several minutes and is safe to handle. Put this or several of them at the base of the fire lay and light. It burns slowly and will ignite the tinder, kindling and eventually the fuel, in that order,” he says.






Finally, a successful backyard party around a fire depends on the safety and comfort of your guests. Roasting marshmallows and telling stories next to a campfire is a fun fall activity, but the fun stops once someone gets hurt. Always use caution when adding wood to the flames. Use a long poker to adjust logs. Keep a close eye on children and pets to make sure no one gets too close to the flames.






“It sounds simple, but people love a campfire and children are often excited around them, but unfortunately they are prone to falling,” Mr. Jones says. “... Have fun but think safety. One mishap can turn a fun evening around a crackling fire into a first aid emergency or damaged property situation.”



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