It's the time of year when people want to clean up their yards before spring and summer. Many Arkansans will begin burning leaves and other debris that has collected in the yard over the winter.

It’s the time of year when people want to clean up their yards before spring and summer. Many Arkansans will begin burning leaves and other debris that has collected in the yard over the winter.

However, this can be a dangerous and costly method if not done properly. In the last five years, 37 percent of the wildfires that the Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) responded to were caused by this very thing. In fact, debris burning is the leading cause of wildfire in our area, It is almost always preventable if precautions are taken.

Here are some tips to help prevent an escape from a debris pile:

• Never leave a fire unattended.

• Burn on days when there is no wind vs. days when the wind is high.

• The best time to burn debris piles is late evening and after dark when temperatures are at the lowest and humidity is at its highest.

• Make sure that you have a good line, down to mineral soil, around the pile you plan to burn. Make the line wider as the pile gets bigger.

• Clear all flammable material within three to five feet of a small pile.

• Keep the pile a safe distance away from woods or pastures that may burn easily in drier conditions.

• Do not burn if the wind is predicted to be over 5mph.

Remember the landowner is responsible if their fire does escape, and it may result in a citation and a fine. According to Arkansas law, allowing a fire to escape is a Class A misdemeanor and may be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. You may be held responsible for damage to adjacent landowners caused by a fire that was allowed to escape.

Weather conditions and related information may be obtained from the National Weather Service or the AFC by calling 1-800-830-8015.

Check for burn bans on the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s website: www.arkfireinfo.org/index.php?do:showBurnBans

If a fire does escape call 911 or the AFC at 1-800-468-8834. For more information on fire laws or burning contact your local AFC office at 870-267-0133.