Commissioners asked to crack down on careless fire burners

Something?s got to change, according to volunteer Marion County fire chiefs after about 70 fires were called in to departments during the first seven days of April.

The fire chiefs asked the Marion County Board of Commissioners Monday to enforce rules that could include up to a month in jail and a $500 fine for ranchers who purposely light native-grass fires that get away in the wind.

Instead, the commissioners want first to arrange a meeting between livestock owners and firefighters to see how the situation might be moderated.

Fire chiefs Fred Sheridan of Lehigh, Ben Steketee of Hillsboro, Lester Kaiser of Lincolnville and Brad Pagen?kopf said the situation has gotten so far out of hand that fire departments that call for help in fighting grass fires in neighboring counties can?t be helped because all the Marion County departments are on call fighting fires here.

Much of the problem, the fire chiefs said, are cattlemen who aren?t schooled in fire control seeing that their neighbors who are schooled in using fire breaks and adequate crews out burning. So, they decide to light a fire themselves and, at worst, they simply leave it, the fire chiefs said.

The carelessness is compounded when the wind increases and fuels the fire beyond control, they said.

Commissioner Dan Holub said the attitudes of careless burners might change if they knew rules were going to be enforced, and they were likely to get caught.

The firefighters said an even harsher penalty could be coming for a careless burner if smoke from a fire he or she sets holds up a train due to blinding smoke. The idle time costs a railroad an average $20,000 per hour, and requires that a railroad inspector come out to inspect the track, they said.

Such a hold-up in Marion County has railroad inspectors looking for the perpetrator, they said.

Other business

Road and Bridge Director Jesse Hamm showed the commissioners core samples from 190th east of Jade, former U.S. Highway 56, and noted that sand from mixes between core samples is wearing away pavement soft spots.

Dallke and Commis?sioner Lori Lalouette disagreed on patching the road. Dallke called for immediate cold patching, while Lalou?ette said her research shows more slowly available hot-mix restores surface to last longer.

Commission Chair Randy Dallke seemed to break the stalemate by calling for the cold patching to be done, and be monitored, with a possible move to hot mix in the future if the cold mix doesn?t work well.

Dallke called for more time to think about allowing a house boat to be located on Marion County Lake as requested of Park and Lake Superintendent Steve Hudson.

The commissioners said allowing one house boat on the lake would lead to a problem of having many house-boat owners wanting to locate craft there.

If allowed, Hudson said the house boat definitely would have to be kept in the upper half of the lake so it wouldn?t interfere with water skiing.

The commissioners approved a bid of $1,050 per tire for four solid rubber tires for the Bobcat skid loader at the transfer station from Rod?s Tire & Ser?vice in Hillsboro over bids of $1,403 from Bobcat and $1,123 from SETCO.

Commissioners met for 15 minutes in executive session for personnel with Transfer Station Director Bud Druse, for 15 minutes for trade secrets with Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman, for 5 minutes for personnel with only the commissioners, and for 15 minutes for personnel with Emergency Medical Services Director Ed Debesis.