County hears concerns about burn bans

Seventy-four people who called in were denied permits by county offices for burning grass pastures and Conservation Reserve Program acres Saturday during calm wind conditions.

Then Sunday, during high winds, Emergency Manage?ment Director Randy Frank told the Marion County Com?mission Monday, that county firefighters were called to put out eight different rangeland fires.

Frank, Sheriff Rob Craft, fire chiefs and commercial providers met with the commissioners at the regular weekly meeting to try to develop a more workable fire policy that would enable land operators to burn safely and efficiently during better conditions and stop activities quickly when wind picks up.

Frank and Craft said people with CRP land are especially getting anxious to burn because of an April 15 deadline related to benefits.

The commissioners passed a temporary measure for the next week that would have a 12-hour daytime window during which those who receive permission from the Marion County sheriff?s office to burn are allowed to do so. That would replace the 24-hour window during which conditions frequently change overnight.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he can?t give further approval to the current policy of allowing 24-hour permits that run midnight to midnight when it involves setting fires at night.

Nathan Brunner and Leonard Jirak of Fire For Hire, who conduct pasture burns in many counties, suggested the commissioners might want to hire a county fire marshal to focus on the situation, although several persons present said they thought that was unlikely given budget constraints.

Craft said the sheriff?s office monitors the Weather Channel regarding fire danger warnings when they decided whether to grant permission for burning.

Frank said a typical farm situation, where an operator has a four-wheeler with 15 gallons of water along to spray, often is inadequate to deal with fires that begin getting out of control.

The commissioners said the most irresponsible burners are those who start a fire, then ride away to let it burn itself out.

Commissioner Dan Holub said there is a continuing problem with brush piles in pastures where coals stay alive under the ashes to start fires again during high winds?even after operators and fire departments think the fires are out.

?We?ve got to have them understand they need to be responsible, but then we have to give them room to operate,? he said.

Frank said it would be helpful if farmers restricted brush pile burning to winter when there is snow on the ground that will stay a while.

Lincolnville Fire Chief Lester Kaiser said the rangeland fire index that takes into account factors such as wind, humidity and moisture should be part of policy.

Kaiser said nighttime fires can be especially hazardous to firefighters trying to put them out.

Payday business

During then $697,341 payday meeting, County Clerk Tina Spencer noted that $395,845 of that total payout was for payroll.

She reported sales tax receipts for January received by the county at the end of March at $49,562 for regular sales tax and $43,252 for special jail bond sales tax.

Dallke said the jail bond sales tax on hand is adequate to pay the bond through two thirds of 2016.

The commissioners approved a concealed carry weapons policy for employees that prohibits workers from carrying firearms in county vehicles or while on county business, with the exception of the sheriff?s office.

The commissioners told Diane Williams of Canada that they would allow Road and Bridge Director Randy Crawford to give permission to Westar Energy to locate a street light in Canada for monthly payments at her expense.

They also granted her permission to have fireworks and a band for a celebration in August at Marion County Lake.

The commissioners approved a $16,642.20 road and bridge competitive area fuel bid for 5,300 gallons of diesel from Cooperative Grain & Supply of Hillsboro over a bid of $16,882.40 from Cardie Oil Inc. at Tampa.

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