burn pile

Burn piles are common sights in areas that are being harvested for timber or cleared for cultivation. Sometimes referred to as pum piles (pum is the Forest Service’s acronym for “pile of unusable material”), they are more often called slash piles. Slash is the collective term for the limbs, tops, broken branches, stumps, root wads, and other “trash” left after a tract of land has been logged. This debris is piled or bulldozed into large heaps that are burned, generally in spring or fall, to get rid of dangerous fuels before the next fire season. To slash means to cut down trees in order to make a right-of-way or other clearing; more generally, it means “to cut or hack.” Land that has been brutally cleared often looks ravaged. This is especially the case when slash and burn is employed, a method that involves cutting down an area of virgin or rejuvenated forest and piling the unsalvageable material, which is then allowed to dry before being incinerated. The phrase itself has become synonymous with any action or policy of malicious purgation.

Kim Barnes