Spring is just around the corner which means spring cleaning is on the minds of many residents across the Grand Valley, but it's not just clearing out the garage.
For many, setting fire to those dry weeds, tree trimmings and old shrubs is the quickest way to get rid of them. County officials are reminding residents that our valley's weather can be unpredictable, and it's vital they follow all burning rules to prevent any flames from getting out of control.
It's going to be a hot spring, and not just because of the sun. For many, springtime is the perfect time to light a match and say goodbye to winter.
"With the wind and the dry grass, things can get out of control very quickly," Bureau of Land Management division chief Russ Long said.
"Springtime is a great time to burn because it clears out the Valley."
The spring open burning season starts Friday and will run through May 31.
"The purpose of burn season is to allow people an opportunity to get rid of their annual vegetative growth,” Mesa County air quality specialist Ed Brotsky said.
Whether it's weeds, garden debris, tree branches or shrubs, officials warn residents burning always comes with risks.
"We just want people to be careful and responsible and work with your local fire departments so that we don't get a fire on federal land," Long said.
"The wind comes up 60 mph and you not only burn your ditch, but the neighbors ditch and maybe their house," Grand Junction Fire Department spokesperson Mike Page said of the valley’s unpredictable weather.
Air specialists also warn the extra spring smoke can be dangerous for those with pre-existing lung conditions, and that’s why they recommend finding alternative ways of getting rid of spring debris.
"Due to the small size of the smoke particles, they can easily get down deep into the lungs and even into the bloodstream," Brotsky said.
"We offer an alternative to burning, we have the compost facility, we take all green waste and compost for free," Mesa County Public Works Director Pete Baier said.
Last year Mesa County took in 65,000 cubic yards of clippings, cuttings and stumps through its Organic Materials Composting facility, located near the landfill.
The center takes grass clippings, tree limbs, untreated lumber and and straw for free.
"Not only does it reduce their liability if they start a fire, but it's better for the environment," Brotsky said.
Whichever method you choose, however, experts say follow the rules and don't fan the flames.
BLM officials say dry grass is one of the biggest fuels for fires in the springtime because most of it is left over from last summer.
If you plan on burning this season you will need a permit. Forms can be picked up from a local fire department (Fruita/Loma, Grand Junction, Clifton, Palisade, De Beque) or from the Mesa County Health Department.
Allowed materials to burn: agricultural debris, dry weeds, garden debris, tree, shrub or brush trimmings less than one inch in diameter.
Prohibited materials to burn: leaves, grass trimmings, limbs greater than one inch in diameter, garbage or household trash, rubber, plastic.