County announces week long burn ban

Despite the rain in most areas on Sunday night, the Marion County Commission decided Monday to impose a burning ban until Tuesday, Feb. 17, because of U.S. Weather Service predictions of warm, drying winds.

They did so with a directive to Michelle Abbott-Becker, Emergency Management director, to form a committee of citizens to develop burning regulations and enforcement. Abbott-Becker asked that members of the public who would be interested in serving on the committee call 620-382-2144.

Sheriff Rob Craft joined the commissioners and Abbott-Becker to hear of any scenarios where his department might be called upon to enforce burn regulations.

Abbott-Becker said that was a problem for burning regulations in most counties??no real teeth? or no ?enforcement? to them.

At the same time, she told commissioners of problems in Butler and Barber counties, where county governments face litigation for not doing enough to protect property and life from fires.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said that when it comes time for spring-time pasture burning, large landowners often burn despite burn bans, or ignore regulations because of insufficient penalty.

He told of a story from Harvey County where an owner of considerable land was preparing to burn and asked the county, ?What does it cost if I violate (their regulations).?

When the landowner was told the fine was $1,000, Dallke said he replied, ?I?ll write the check.? Then he burned.

Dallke said that in the spring, residents at Marion County Lake frequently complain about not being notified when pasture burns occur so they can close windows to keep the smoke out of the house. It also has been hazardous to the health of persons who require supplemental oxygen to breathe, he said.

Abbott-Becker said notification of adjacent landowners is a common requirement in most burn regulations, although it presents a problem when a large development area like the county lake is next to pasture.

?At the same time,? she said, ?we have to remember we are primarily an agricultural community, and we have to respect that.? She said new technologies at the weather service make it possible to update conditions in three-hour reports for specific locales.

Dallke said fire chiefs need the regulations in place to give them guidelines for equal regulation if they are to be decision makers in the process.

Commissioner Bob Hein said he has received many calls from constituents in the past week calling for a burn ban.

Commission Chairman Dan Holub said that more than one fire has gotten out of hand in the past month, and that if weather service predictions are accurate, there will be more.

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