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FIrefighters: Hundreds of acres burned

Lawrence County’s firefighters are no doubt hoping today’s rain will bring a badly needed respite from battling brush fires.

Carl Whitley, dispatcher for the Lawrence County 911 Dispatch Center said this morning that firefighters were called to 17 fires Tuesday.

The fires were scattered throughout the county. The last one was reported just before 11 p.m. Tuesday night on Township Road 163 in Rome Township.

Rome Township Fire Department President George Barnett estimated that brush fires have damaged 800 to 900 acres in his jurisdiction alone this month. Barnett is not alone in his exhaustion.

Windsor Township Fire Chief Don Christian said his firefighters have been called out to 14 fires since Sunday.

“We do the best we can,” Christian said. “We got some help from the ODNR. They used their bulldozer on one fire.”

He estimated 75 acres of Windsor property has been burned since Sunday.

Tuesday Coal Grove police and firefighters contended with a brush fire on a steep hilltop overlooking the Ashland, Ky.-Coal Grove bridges that was reportedly set by a man with a gun.

Deputies and firefighters used four-wheelers to reach the area.

Christian said some of the Windsor blazes have been escape fires — fires caused by people whose intent was to burn a little yard waste but wound up burning a hillside or field as well.

“They shouldn’t be out burning until we get some moisture,” Christian said. “Everything is dry right now.”

Barnett agreed.

“We encourage people to think before they burn,” Barnett said. “If you’re going to burn (yard waste) be safe. Think about it. There are a lot of firefighters spending a lot of time in the woods right now.”

Ohio law states that outdoor debris burning is prohibited from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during March, April and May. Burning is limited in the spring due to the abundance of dry fuel on the ground before small, grassy fuels green up with moisture.

Barnett said while some may be the result of carelessness, others are suspected of being arson.

“They’re (arsonists) hard to catch because of the vast area we have to look after but we do have information and leads,” Barnett said.

While Lawrence County has been somewhat fortunate — no one has been injured by these brush fires and no houses have caught fire — some fires have come close to residences. He said there are five houses in the area of Monday’s Township Road 235 brush fire.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of rain today. One-quarter to one-half inch of rain is possible. The chance of rain for Thursday is 50 percent. Rain is also a possibility on Saturday.

Safety tips for outdoor burning

The Ohio Division of Forestry offers these safety tips for burning debris outdoors:

— Consider using a 55-gallon drum with a weighted screen lid to provide an enclosed incinerator.

— Know current and future weather conditions, and have suppression tools on hand.

— Be informed of state and local burning regulations.

— Consult the local fire department for additional information and safety considerations.

— Visit www.ohiodnr.com/forestry and www.firewise.org for more information and tips on protecting your rural home and community

— Remember, “Don’t burn during the day-March, April, and May!”