As we continue to celebrate the holidays, possibly entertaining family and friends around the warmth of a fireplace, our thoughts turn towards the New Year’s Eve festivities and what our resolutions will be for 2016. May I suggest this practical one? Why not resolve to learn and practice safe ash disposal? I’m betting that this is one resolution you can make and keep, for the safety of yourself and your whole community.
Did you know that not all ash is created equal? Any solid fuel, such as wood, coal or pellets burned in a wood stove, fireplace or insert will leave ashes behind. Are you burning softwoods or hardwoods, anthracite coal or bituminous? Take some time today to learn about the products you are burning. The problem is that some can leave small bits of hot coals, mixed in with the ashes. The ash insulates the bits of coal, keeping them from burning out. Now add in some oxygen, and you’ve got yourself a flare up! You may have heard that ash is beneficial as compost in a garden. Not always true! Again it depends on the type of fuel burned and climate you live in. For example, coal ash is toxic to plants because of the elements it contains. Wood ash is great in gardens located in areas of high acidity, but not so good in dry areas such as here in Northern Nevada, which are more alkaline in nature.
Regardless of the type of fuel you burn, let’s all make that resolution to can our ashes. By following these simple steps, you can ensure that you won’t cause an unintended fire in the New Year. Here are ash disposal tips we learned from the experts at Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District:
- Store all ashes in a fire-resistant metal container. This helps keep air from blowing through and disturbing ashes, which can reignite the hot coals hiding in the ashes. Approved containers are available at local retailers. Never dispose of them in a plastic garbage box or can, cardboard box, or paper grocery bag. Never use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes.
- Make sure there are no hot spots left in the ashes. Soak them in water or let them sit for several days, double checking for hot spots on occasion. This would apply to charcoal grill ashes as well.
- Place the metal container on a noncombustible surface, like a concrete pad, and away from anything flammable. Do not place it next to a firewood pile, up against or in the garage, on or under a wood deck or under a porch.
- After the ashes have been sitting in the metal container for a week, check them one last time to be sure that they are cool. If so, the ashes are now safe to dispose of in your trash.
For more information about proper ash disposal, contact your local fire department. A Master Gardener expert at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension can help you with questions about using ash as compost, and you can learn more about reducing the wildfire threat to your home by visiting LivingWithFire.info.