How to Burn a Ditch

Burning ditches is a historical agricultural practice that effectively and inexpensively removes accumulated debris that can block the flow of water in long sections of ditches. Ditch burning is a potentially dangerous activity that you should attempt only in certain places and under certain weather conditions. Damp seasons like spring, or a few days after rain or snow when the ground is wet, are ideal but only if winds are blowing at 5 mph or less.

In many regions, burning ditches requires permits and paperwork.

Step 1

Call your local government or visit its official website and inquire about necessary permits for ditch burning.

Step 2

Fill out all the necessary forms and follow all of the instructions and regulations that apply.

Step 3

Search your local fire department's website to find advice on safe practices in ditch burning. Call the department if necessary.

Step 4

Keep your permit on hand the day of the burning.

Step 5

Request supervision from the local fire department if it is available in your area and you are inexperienced or feel you need help.

Step 6

Choose a cool day when the ground and grasses and shrubs are not extremely dry and when winds are 5 mph or or less. A few days after rain or snow is ideal.

Step 7

Dress in long sleeves and long pants made of flame-retardant fabric.

Step 8

Make a 2-foot fire break at the start of the ditch or section of ditch you plan to burn. A firebreak is a space in which all flammable material has been removed.

Step 9

Measure out a 4-yard stretch of ditch after your first firebreak. After each 4-yard stretch of ditch, make a 2 foot fire break.

Step 10

Use wooden stakes to mark the 4-yard sections and the firebreaks to be made between them if necessary, but be sure to remove them before burning.

Step 11

Make sure your ditch or the section of ditch you plan to burn ends at a 2-foot-or-larger firebreak.

Step 12

Work 4 yards of ditch at a time. Walk along one side of the ditch, opposite the side that is bordered by a less flammable material such as pavement, gravel or dirt, as it will serve as a natural firebreak to help control the fire.

Step 13

Point the propane torch behind you into the ditch. Don't lean across the ditch, but angle your propane torch across the ditch first, lighting the far side of the ditch first, and gradually angling the torch back toward the edge of the ditch nearest to you, making sure to burn the grass and brush along the edges of the ditch whenever possible.

Step 14

Repeat this action until you reach the firebreak at the end of each 4-yard stretch, and at a safe distance, 5 feet or more beyond the firebreak, observe to make sure your fire stays inside the ditch and doesn't escape to surrounding areas.

Step 15

Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the area surrounding the ditch. If necessary, put it out with water. If you have problems putting about the fire, call your local fire department and emergency services.

Chris Ciolli

Based in Barcelona, Spain, Chris Ciolli has been writing professionally since 2003. Ciolli's work has been featured in "The Tipton Times," "The Joplin Independent" and She received Bright Flight and Curator's scholarships in 2001 and was a Fulbright finalist in 2005. Ciolli holds a dual bachelor's degree in communications and Spanish with a minor in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia.