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Types of burning
Open burning
Open field burning releases are issued by the Smoke Management Program to the permit agents and specify the times, places, amounts, and other conditions for open field burning within the fire districts. The permit agent then issues permits for specific fields in accordance with the burn release. Field-by-field burning is usually authorized by direct radio contact with the permit agent for the particular areas or fields of interest. Formal burn releases are issued over the radio for more general burning activity, including density-limited releases and general quota releases.
 
Burning is always "prohibited" unless "marginal" conditions are announced by ODA. Under prohibition conditions, no open field burning is allowed except for test fires or field-by-field burning specifically authorized by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA).
 
Unless otherwise announced, a one quota limit is automatically in effect. A quota is a specific number of acres assigned to an individual fire district. Burning is released in terms of quotas, representing the day´s limit on acreage for which the fire district may issue burn permits. Additional limits may be placed on the number of fires per fire district or zone to be burned in a given time period (density-limited release). These are incorporated into the overall quota limit. Quotas apply to all open field burning in the fire district - both priority and regular areas - and are only for the times and places authorized.

Test fires
Test fires are conducted to assess smoke dispersion capacity, and then ODA determines what level of open field burning, if any, may be accomplished during existing weather conditions. To obtain the best information possible about the atmosphere, test fires should comply with the following criteria:
  • The field must be registered and permitted for open field burning and should be between 20 and 50 acres in size.
  • Ignition time and location must be as specified by the ODA.
  • Field conditions must be good. Fields with unusually high moisture or regrowth are not acceptable.
  • Rapid ignition of the field must not be hampered. Fields with irregular shapes and known fire hazards are not acceptable.

Density Limited Releases and General Release
When conditions are appropriate to burn and the test fire results prove favorable, a release is issued over the radio. The most common type of release is density-limited, in which the level of open field burning is matched to the ventilation capacity of the air-shed over space and time. This allows more effective control of the rate of burning while maintaining a sustained level of activity by avoiding smoke buildups that would otherwise necessitate cessation of field burning.
 
A density-limited release specifies the number of fields (up to the quota limit) that may be open field burned either continuously or on a "one-shot" basis, either within the district as a whole or within certain district zones open for burning. For convenience, variations of the density-limited release have been given special names as defined in the following table.
 
Type of Release Definition

Alpha
One field per fire district burned on a one-shot basis. One permit for one field in any open area of the district, and then stop until notified to do otherwise.
Bravo
One field per fire district per zone burned on a one-shot basis. One permit for one field in each authorized zone open for burning, then stop until otherwise notified.
Charlie
One field per fire district burning continuously. One permit for one field in any open area of authorized fire district. When that field is substantially done, a permit may be issued for another field in that fire district, to be started immediately upon completion of the prior burn. Permit issuance stops when quota limit is reached, or prohibition is imposed or approaching.
Delta
One field per fire district per zone burning continuously. One permit for one field in each authorized zone open for burning. When that field is substantially done, a permit may be issued for another field in that zone, to be started immediately upon completion of the prior burn. Permit issuance stops when quota limit is reached, or prohibition is imposed or approaching.
General Release
Any number of fields, but not more than the quota limit may be burned. Permits for fields may be issued all at once in areas open for burning, up to the quota limit.
 
 
Whenever open field burning under a density-limited release, the following limitations and conditions apply:
  • Maximum acreage limits in terms of quotas are always in effect. Unless otherwise specified, one quota is the maximum acreage allowed to be open field burned per fire district.
  • The field must have a continuous fuel bed and must be capable of being burned so that one continuous smoke plume results from its being burned.
  • Fields of 200 acres or more require special permission from the ODA.
  • Under single Alpha and Charlie releases only, not more than two small fields totaling 40 acres (or less) may be considered as one field. For example, a combination of a 15-acre and a 20-acre field is permitted.
  • Doubling or tripling of a density-limited release may be authorized by the Smoke Management Program for the number of fires allowed per zone or fire district.
  • Permits carry an automatic 60-minute expiration. The grower must begin lighting the field within one hour of receiving the permit. The fires-out time always supersedes the period of permit validation.

Field-by-Field authorizations
Field-by-field burning is normally conducted in a limited area, under limited conditions, and often when winds are expected to shift unpredictably. Burning is authorized directly to the permit agent by radio, usually for one or two open field burns at a time. Particular field conditions (size, crop type, etc.) are often discussed before permission to burn is given. A one-quota limit is in effect unless otherwise specified.

Special restrictions
Special conditions or restrictions may be imposed by the ODA to allow for more successful open field burning. These may be specified as part of the burn authorization or release, or may be announced in advance as being permanently in effect for a part of the burn season.

 
Special restrictions may include:

  • Requirements for fluffing or other special treatments to certain crop types.
  • Burning of only certain crop types.
  • Imposing a time period for growers to begin lighting or to have field fires out.
  • Burning of only certain sized fields.
  • Dry fields only.

Training fires
Training fires are exercises that help fire-fighting personnel develop the skills necessary to extinguish field fires in an emergency. Open field burning of grass seed or cereal grain acreage by or for any public agency for official purposes, must be pre-scheduled with ODA. Like any other burn, fields must be registered, permits issued, and fees paid. The person in charge should contact ODA several days in advance and give information about the burn and the phone number of a contact person who will be called if the burn must be stopped. Fire districts are encouraged to cooperate in sharing training fires and to minimize the acreage burned and the number of separate burns.

Preparatory ("Prep") Burning
Preparatory burning refers to specially permitted backfiring on certain problem or hard-to-burn fields that provides a quicker open field burn as a result of this advance preparation. Fields that are irregularly shaped, have adjacent fire hazards, or are in marginal condition are eligible.
  • Prep burning is considered on most days when the winds are deemed appropriate.
  • Prep burning time and acreage limit is established by the ODA.
  • Preparatory burning requires that backfiring techniques be used. 

Permit agents notify the ODA of suitable fields. As with other field-by-field burning, ODA approval and permit are required for prep burning.

Stack burning
The open burning of stacked residue from grass seed or cereal grain crops is allowed under a daily open burning schedule announced by the Smoke Management Program. All residue to be burned must be dry to the extent practicable and free of all other combustible and noncombustible material. A fire permit must be obtained from the local fire district prior to ignition of piled or stacked residue, if required. Stack burning is not allowed within the first 1/4 mile around I-5 or within the first 1/8 mile around the highways designated in ORS 837-110-080. No stack burning will be allowed in 2013 and thereafter.
 
For information on stack burning please call (503) 986-4701.

Propane flaming
Propane flaming of grass seed and cereal grain crop residue is allowed under a daily propane flaming schedule announced by the ODA and is subject to the following conditions:

  • The loose straw is removed.
  • The remaining stubble is cut and removed to the extent practicable.
  • The remaining stubble will not sustain an open fire.
  • The field is registered for propane flaming.
  • A propane flaming permit and fire permit have been issued.
 
Regulations have been adopted to reduce the potential for smoke problems from propane flaming. These rules point out the need to go slowly, remove excessive regrowth, and curtail propaning under strong winds. Propaning should be done using consecutive and overlapping passes beginning along the downwind side, moving back and forth gradually toward the upwind side. Skipping strips and allowing the fire to run on its own is prohibited. No propane flaming will be allowed in 2013 and thereafter.