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December 03, 2016
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A cautionary note about leaves

This image of Lily Pond, taken during sunrise at Pike County Park on October 20, shows the process of abscission as trees cut off moisture and nutrients to its leaves in preparation of shedding them. A shed leaf takes only a few days to dry completely.
TRR photo by Scott Rando

November 15, 2012

A week or so after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the northeast U.S. and our region, the sun has returned. Leaves that were left on the trees before the storm were blown down, along with a few of the trees. The trees have been cleared from the roadways and power has been restored, but many homeowners have blown-down trees or branches to contend with. Some of this blown-down debris has its own hidden hazard.

A few dry days with low relative humidity have spawned an increase in area fire department suppression activities due to brush fires. A few fires were started when trees that were still standing during the storm made contact with live wires, afterwards resulting in embers igniting leaves on the ground. Most of the fires, however, were due to “uncontrolled controlled burning,” unattended burning, or burning in windy conditions. Freshly fallen and dry leaves on the ground haven’t been packed down by rain or snow yet, and are conducive to rapid fire spread under the right conditions.

There are many things that the homeowner can do to reduce the risk of wildfires. Many towns have regulations concerning burning. If you do burn your leaves, have a ready source of water handy, and don’t burn on a windy day. Many people mulch leaves for later use in gardening or landscaping projects. If you dump your leaves on your vacant woodlots, try to avoid dumping leaves on jeep trails, foot paths, or other clear areas. These may serve as natural firebreaks and will delay or prevent the spread of wildfire. A good source of wildfire tips can be found here: www.firewise.org/information/who-is-this-for/homeowners.aspx.