YUMA, Ariz. – For the next few months, residents may see smoke coming from various Yuma farm land. Farmers are using controlled fires to burn the rest of their wheat in preparation for next winter’s harvest.
Rural/Metro calls it wheat stubble burning when farmers bur their left over wheat.
“All those beautiful wheat fields that you see are going to be turned over and set on fire,” says Charly McMurdie with Rural/Metro, “This is perfectly natural it puts the nutrients back into the earth and at the same time sets the field up for the next crop.”
The fires are done by farmers with local fire departments standing by in case things get out of hand.
McMurdie says, “We see on a regular basis that a lot of fields will burn the way the farmer wishes them to. Every now and then we’ll get something that gets a little out of control and we have to send an engine and a water tender to put it out.”
Controlled fires can only be started if the air quality is clear and there is not any heavy winds.
“ADEQ (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality) is the one who governs the air quality and if they deem the quality is poor then they don’t allow it to be a burn day. Also, if it is windy outside or breezy that determines or not if it is a burn day.”
Other regulations state all fires must start an hour after sunrise and must be out by four in the evening. Controlled fires cannot be within a quarter mile of a highway or half a mile away from a residential area. Even with precautions a regular day in the desert southwest could lead smoke near homes.
McMurdie says, “My advice to you is if you are getting a lot of smoke in your area that you can call and check what the burn laws are in the area you live in. You can call and check on the fire.”
McMurdie also says if you notice anything suspicious or a lot of smoke in your area call the fire department.
“Keep your windows closed, maybe turn your A/C on or go visit someone who is not in the area,” says McMurdie.