When it comes to open burning — we all have those pesky fallen leaves — it is always best to err on the side of caution. If there’s any doubt, save it for another day. 

If you are going to burn, most fire protection districts in the region require burn permits, usually just a simple a phone call or online form to leave your name, address and phone number. 

That contact howver is crucial, and it must be made on the actual day of the burn, because on many days, you’ll likely hear that burning is not advised or is not being permitted that day. 

Fire departments do that for a reason. Certain weather conditions make it unsafe to burn because of the likelihood that the fire will get away from you, potentially endangering lives and property including your own.

Burn permits are only issued when the wind is below 10 miles per hour, humidity is above 30 percent and temperatures are below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. A Red Flag warning from the National Oceanic anAtmospheric Administration or the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office or Missouri Department of Conservation with a statewide burn ban supersedes these local requirements though. There are times of drought when this might be utilized as severe drought would create dangerous long-term conditions even if the wind, humidity and temperatures do not disqualify that specific day for burning.

It should also be noted that these open burns must never be left unattended, no matter how minor they might seem in the moment. You must have a hose and rake to attend to the fire and be able to put it out if need be. Open burning must be done before dark, and any open fire must be at least 25 feet away from any structure.

Mid-County requires raking a fire-line at least 3 feet wide around the burn area and having an appropriate source of water supply or heavy equipment to control the fire. Open burning of tree limbs and vegetation from land clearing operations is allowed if the burning is done at least 200 yards from the nearest inhabited dwelling.

Whatever the conditions, remember that the starter of the fire is responsible for the fire regardless of the conditions.

Other tips to limit natural cover fires

•Do not wait to call 911 at the first sign of a fire or an open burn that appears to be getting out of control.

•Smokers should extinguish cigarette and cigar butts completely before disposal. Do not discard cigarettes from motor vehicles.

•Secure trailer chains to prevent dragging. A spark in contact with dry grass could start a fire.

•Off-Road Driving: Use caution when driving vehicles off-road. Sparks from vehicles or equipment coming in contact with dry grass can start fires in dry conditions. Catalytic converters on motor vehicles can also start fires when they come in contact with fine, dry fuel, such as grass. Always carry a fire extinguisher on vehicles that are used off-road.

•Grilling: Use caution with outdoor grilling: Position the grill well away from siding, deck railing, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited. Never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going. Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

•Fire Pits and Campfires: Be extra careful with fire pits and campfires, exercising the same precautions you would with an open fire. Consider the risks before lighting the fire. If you decide to light a fire, check the wind direction. Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby. Do not overload. Do not burn trash and leaves. Avoid using soft woods that are likely to pop and throw sparks. Remember to make sure the fire is fully extinguished before leaving the area. Embers in the fire bed can reignite a fire.

Sources: Lake area fire protection districts and Missouri Division of Fire Safety