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The most important aspect of burn preparation is the firebreak. Firebreaks keep the fire from spreading to other fields and woods; that is, it helps the burning personnel maintain control of the fire. We want to keep fire out of woods and treelines where dead wood can burn and smolder for days creating a risk of spreading after the field burn is completed and personnel have left.
Firebreaks must go around the entire perimeter of each field to be burned. The width of the break should be a minimum of about 12-15 feet. The firebreak must be mowed as short as possible. If a brush hog is used it needs to be set as low as possible. Try to get the firebreak as short as your front lawn. The breaks should be mowed several times to get the material cut as fine as possible. Do not leave a layer of grass/weed debris laying on the surface. If the brush hog has a directional discharge use it to direct the debris back into the field. Some landowners help by using a hay rake after mowing to rake the debris back into the field to be burned. If a finish mower is available this also helps tremendously to cut the length of the grass short, chop it fine, and direct it into the field to be burned.
The best firebreaks are cut with a plow or disc that turns the soil and provides a band of dirt around the perimeter that the fire cannot escape from. This firebreak enhancement is normally completed after cutting with a brush hog. This helps the burn personnel considerably.
At left, this is a firebreak that was disced by the landowner. This photo is preburning.
At right, this is the same disced firebreak post-burn.
A common firebreak is the perimeter mowed short
Below, another common firebreak between the tall grass field and a tree line. Keep the firebreak short