Beware: Burn piles from the fall may go into flames

Friday May 14, 2021

(Coeur d’Alene) – Every fall, many forest landowners gather up branches/slash from logging activities and burn large piles. However, some make the mistake of assuming that the fire is completely out, when in fact the remaining unburned material may smolder for months under winter snow.

It is extremely important to be sure your pile is out: Go back and check the piles for heat. The pile must be cold to the touch. Large piles of unburned material may need to be moved around to ensure the fire is completely out. Remember, people may be liable for the cost of fire suppression if their fire gets out of control.

Already this year there have been reports of those still-smoldering piles catching flame. That, combined with unusually dry conditions for this time of year, is creating a serious wildfire risk with fires already occurring as a result.

More about at-risk piles: Large piles of tree materials that were pushed together by bulldozers or other types of equipment are especially at risk of smoldering and catching flame because the dirt and rocks may cover partially-burned tree material, allowing it to smolder without visible evidence. Snow cover can further insulate the pile, creating a slow-cook heat within the pile. Once the snow melts and the material dries out, the smoldering heat can catch flame and spread to other areas. The attached photos from this spring near Bonners Ferry in North Idaho are examples.

If you are doing any burning: Burn permits are required May 10 - October 20 each year. They are free. They are not required for campfires.

Who needs a permit: Idaho law (38-115) requires any person planning to burn outside city limits within Idaho, including crop residue burning, to obtain a state burn permit during this period, referred to as closed fire season.  A burn permit must be obtained before starting debris burning activities and you must have it with you when burning. Other laws related to open burning in Idaho also apply. Permits are free and good for 10 days. Campfires do not require a burn permit.

How to get a burn permit: Visit the self-service website  Permits are available seven days a week and are immediately issued and valid. No matter where you want to burn and what you plan to burn, the system will either issue you the burn permit you need on the spot or tell you which entity to contact for alternate or additional permits. A permit may also be issued by your local IDL office.

About IDL Fire: Idaho Department of Lands Fire Management (IDL Fire) in partnership with two Timber Protection Associations and with the support of rural volunteer fire departments and other partners, are responsible for fire suppression and prevention on more than 6 million acres of state and private forests and rangelands in Idaho. IDL Fire focuses on initial attack with the goal of keeping fires at 10 acres or less. IDL Fire protects and preserves important endowment timber assets that help fund Idaho schools and other beneficiaries, as well as millions of acres of private forestland.


Media Contact

Robbie Johnson

Idaho Department of Lands

Public Information Officer

208 908-1786