Holton fire chief: Think ahead on controlled burns
The key to a safe and successful controlled burn is thinking ahead, according to Holton Fire Chief Kevin Ingels.
“Look into the future a little bit when you burn. See what the weather is going to be like the next day and two days down the road,” Ingels said. “If it’s going to be super windy, you may not want to burn because if your fire is not completely out, the wind can cause problems later on.”
Although this winter’s weather has been mild and ideal for burning, strong wind speeds have kept many from doing so.
“We’ve probably had more red flag days this year that we’ve had in recent years, which means there is absolutely no outside burning whatsoever,” Ingels said.
Starting Jan. 1, Jackson County residents wanting to burn were required to sign up for a new open burn permit. The permits expire Dec. 31 of every odd year.
“Overall, the updates on the burn permits have gone well,” he said. “I think we have 80 to 90 percent of people switched over.”
There were more than 3,200 burn permit holders in the county last year, it was reported.
The fines for illegal burning have also increased as part of the new permit policy. Violating the burn resolution is a class A non-person misdemeanor and the violator is subject to a jail term of up to one year and/or the following fines:
* No less than $500 for the first conviction.
* No less than $1,000 for the second conviction.
* No less than $1,500 for the third conviction.
The previous fines were between $100 and $500 for a first violation, $500 to $1,000 for a second and $1,000 and $2,500 for a third.
All fines are paid to the resident’s specific fire district through the clerk of the district court. The new resolution also states that a conviction or diversion under the resolution may result in a resident being banned from any burning for up to five years.
Ingels said that, to his knowledge, no fines have been issued by the Holton Fire Department or any other departments so far this year.”
“In the years past, we’ve had a couple of people receive fine, but it doesn’t happen often. Maybe once a year,” he said.
Prior to burning each time, permit holders must call the Holton Public Safety Office at 364-3123 to get permission to conduct an open burn and to report when a fire is out. Open burns must be ignited within one hour after the permit holder receives approval from the safety office since the weather can change quickly in Kansas.
The National Weather Service Rangeland Fire Danger Index issues fire conditions for Jackson County three times a day. Previously, the index was consulted just once a day.
According to the NWS, the index is calculated by computing the moisture content of dead fuels, sky cover, temperature and wind speed.
“People are doing a better job this year of calling us when they are done burning,” Ingels said. “We’ve had a couple of Saturdays so far this year where we’ve had 100 controlled burns going at once. A lot of people are waiting though. We just haven’t had two or three nice burn days in a row yet.”
Ingels said that residents burning trash in a trash barrel must have some sort of cover or wire screen on the barrel.
“If it’s in a barrel and has a cover on it, residents aren’t required to call in to get permission to burn,” Ingels said. “I would still advise those people to abide by same rules. You still wouldn’t want to burn on a windy day.”
Ingels said that burn permit holders, especially those who reside within city limits, need to be aware of specific burning laws enforced by their city.
“Get in touch with your local fire department or city office to see if burning is even allowed within city limits,” Ingels said. “Currently, the city of Denison has a policy that doesn’t allow any burning whatsoever.”
In the city of Holton, the only items that can be burned in an open burn pile is leaves, Ingels said.
“I would encourage everyone who lives within a city to become familiar with their local rules and regulations,” he said.
Burn permits are free and available at any Jackson County fire department; however, the Holton Fire Department is the only department open 24 hours a day, every day of the week. Residents must apply for the burn permit in person, it was reported.