• 39°

County will fight fires with burn ban

County officials will seek advice on prosecuting residents who violate open burning rules in their townships.

Monday, August 16, 1999

County officials will seek advice on prosecuting residents who violate open burning rules in their townships.

Commissioners asked fire chiefs last week to consider open burning bans due to dry weather.

They also asked the Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency to coordinate with firefighters, trustees and village councils on bans.

The intent is to stymie any forest or brush fires that might rage out of control because of dead vegetation left in the wake of the recent drought, commissioner George Patterson said.

"We need to put the fires out before they start," commissioner Paul Herrell said.

But Jeff Scott, acting chief of Upper Township Volunteer Fire Department, asked commissioners last week how such a burning ban would be enforced.

"We feel you really got the ball rolling and we just need more information," Scott said, adding manpower might become a problem for enforcement.

The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department does not have enough manpower, either, Chief Deputy Jim Cochran said.

"But if it’s backed by an (Ohio Revised Code) statute, I can enforce it," Cochran said.

Commissioners said they acted on information that gave fire chiefs the power to order a ban and subsequently enforce it.

Scott said an ordinance or official declaration from the county would help in that enforcement.

The county will check with prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr. on the specifics of enforcing a burning ban, commissioners said.

Meanwhile, Hamilton Township Volunteer Fire Department chief Mike Pierson is worried the situation might get out of hand even with an open burning ban.

Hamilton already has a ban established, but battled two fires last week that looked suspicious, Pierson said.

"I’m not one to listen to scanners, but I was listening last night and I think every township in the county had one or two brush fires last night," he said Friday.

"Right now even green trees will burn," he added. "It’s just like it was in October and November. It’s amazing to me that we haven’t had any in the median strip of the highway. Night after night, there are brush fires."

Most volunteer firefighters work and that means manpower could dwindle if there are multiple fires every day, Pierson said.

"If it stays the way it is, come September or October, my department won’t be physically able to handle it," he said.

"You get so many brush fires going, they are just going to start on one end of the county and go to the other. We’ll probably have to call in the National Guard – that’s what they have had to do in the past."