Gov. considers state ban on burning

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 13, 1999


Wednesday, October 13, 1999

Gov. Bob Taft might consider a statewide open burning ban in response to this summer’s dry weather and threat of more this fall.

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There has been no decision, but a state drought task force is monitoring the dry brush conditions, said Scott Milburn, Taft’s press secretary.

"A recommendation has not been made, yet, but they are monitoring at the local level and if conditions are right, the group will recommend it," Milburn said.

Lawrence County fire officials said the threat of forest fires has diminished in recent weeks because rainfall has increased, but the potential for danger is ever present.

"In my personal opinion, I don’t think we need one (ban)," said Phil Hardy, president of the Lawrence County Firefighters Association and fire chief for Lawrence Township. "It’s greener and more moist, and if it stays damp, we won’t have fires at all."

But it’s still important to think that the forests are fire dangers, especially when leaves start falling, Hardy added.

"The potential is there but I don’t think it’s going to happen," he said. "That may be wishful thinking, though."

Lawrence County 911 executive director Don Mootz said no official word about a ban has been received.

But the governor might be thinking that when all the leaves come down this fall, then the already little moisture in the ground coupled with a low water table will cause the forests to dry out quickly, he said.

"We may yet get enough moisture that we won’t have a problem with it," Mootz said.

County commissioners had suggested recently that county fire chiefs declare burning bans in their districts, saying that neither they nor township trustees had such authority.

Except for Hamilton Township, which does not allow open burning at any time of the year, no fire departments enacted bans.

Nevertheless, people are acting as if bans are in place because of drought-like conditions, Hardy said.

Fire departments are not suffering right now, probably because of the recent rains and lack of plush vegetation along roadsides, Hardy said.

If the governor’s burning ban materializes, then departments will need help with enforcement, Elizabeth Township Volunteer Fire Department chief Dale Waugh said.

"Firefighters are not law enforcement officers," Waugh said. "You can tell someone to put one out but you take the chance of getting hurt if they start to fight you."

A ban needs coordination between departments, sheriff’s deputies and the county prosecutor’s office, he said.

But even in this month’s wetter weather, people must be careful about burning, Waugh added.

"According to all the forestry people, this is one of the worst fire seasons we’ve ever had and people are going to have to look before they burn ," he said.

Just Tuesday’s sun-dried vegetation a lot and it will burn, despite the weekend rains, Waugh said.