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Wet weather might stall brush fires

Today’s wet weather might slow outbreaks of brush fires but county fire authorities say caution remains the name of the game.

Tuesday, November 07, 2000

Today’s wet weather might slow outbreaks of brush fires but county fire authorities say caution remains the name of the game.

"The woods dry out pretty quick, within a day with wind and sun," said Mike Boster, public information officer at Rome Township Volunteer Fire Department.

"During ‘fire season,’ we encourage people not to burn anything outside at all," Boster said.

That’s good advice, considering Rome has suffered a rash of brush blazes in the last 12 days, he said.

Trucks and volunteers responded to 15 fires, most in the Federal Creek area.

"For us, it becomes very busy this time of year," Boster said.

Many are deliberately set by individuals who, if they’re caught, face arson charges, fines and jail time, he said.

Fighting the fires is a dangerous job that ties up resources that could be required elsewhere. And brush fires have gotten out of control before, burning homes and barns, Boster said.

"It’s a community problem, which takes a community effort people watching for people out there setting fires."

Rome isn’t alone in battling brush fires.

Lawrence County 911 director Don Mootz said departments across the county, including Rome, have been called to 42 wildfires since Oct. 26.

Specifically, firefighters responded to one in Fayette, six in Windsor, 15 in Rome, four in Union, seven in Upper, one in Washington, two in Decatur, two in Elizabeth, two in Aid and two in Hamilton townships, Mootz said.

"That doesn’t count all the mutual aid runs they made," he said. "There was more than one department on a lot of those fires."

Dean State Forest has been out on several fire calls, too, forest manager Matt Morgan said.

"We’ve seen it worse, but it’s been busy enough," he said.

County 911 officials have fielded many calls from the public about when it’s legal to burn, but there are many sets of rules in different places, Mootz said.

"We say check with your local fire department," he said.

Township fire chiefs, and some elected officials, are the final authority on burning regulations. Some fire departments post their outdoor burning policy on the fire department door.

For example, even though the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ burning regulations allow open burning between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., many areas of Lawrence County do not. Hamilton Township Fire Department does not allow outdoor burning at all.

Boster said Rome officials encourage people not to burn during the fall season when woods become dry and fires can spread easily.

Morgan said common sense should apply.

If today’s rain quits and the sun comes out, "we’ll be right back where we’ve been," Morgan said.

And, regardless of whether they follow the rules – local or state – if someone allows a brush or garbage fire to get out of control, they are responsible, he said.

Fires can be restricted in some areas, like villages. But if your village or township allows burning, the ODNR suggests following these safety tips:

– Clear the burning site of all flammable materials.

– Use a proper burning container or barrel with a lid.

– Clear a 10-foot area around the burning site.

– Have water and hand tools ready in case fire escapes.

– Avoid burning on windy days.

– Do not burn within 200 feet of any woodland, brush land or field containing dry grass.

– Stay with the fire until it is out.