CASTALIA, Ohio (WJW) – As the continued dry weather persists across the state of Ohio, so does the threat of wildfires and brush fires ignited by embers from controlled burns and bonfires.
As a result, the fire chiefs of Margaretta, Oxford and Groton townships in Erie County have posted an open burning ban until conditions improve.
“I just don’t want to go out and tax other departments along with ours for large fires. We had 25 pretty good sized fires last year that really took a toll on the department,” said Margaretta Twp. Fire Chief Tom Johnson, who initiated the ban.
“We have stubble corn. We have a lot of farmers around, they do hay, they do straw and the conditions in the last weekend were 15 to 20 MPH winds, dry conditions with no rain. Nothing in the forecast coming,” Johnson said.
Fire chiefs say large fires are not only hard on the equipment and the manpower, but it takes trucks out of service that can be used for other emergencies.
The ban does not include patio fire pits or small, well-maintained campfires at camp sites.
The departments are following EPA guidelines in asking farmers and others who are typically permitted to burn off the large piles of debris they have collected starting June 1 after clearing their land.
Dave Lepley, who farms 2,100 acres in Groton Township, is waiting until conditions improve to burn off what he describes as a small pile on his property.
Lepley says he is aware of unintended fires that were started by stray embers.
“The neighbor would be burning and an ember would go out in the field and the wind would carry the flames just across the field and, you know, burn up equipment or another person’s home or something like that and we’ve had those fires the last couple of years,” said Lepley.
While some farmers are upset by the ban, Lepley says he understands it.
“I think that’s pretty prudent right now, you know, and it’s like anything,” said Lepley.
“We want to make people aware that fires are deadly. They are not just dangerous, they are deadly and even though you may feel you are containing the fire in the aspect you are using it, that’s not always the case, especially if a wind kicks up. They are very easy to get out of control,” said Anita Metheny of the state fire marshal’s office of fire prevention.
“If we just use a little bit of common sense and say, ‘hey it’s a little dry to burn today,’ just wait until we get some good weather, if you want to call it that,” said Groton Twp. Fire Chief Kerry Jett.
“We are not saying you can’t burn. I mean, that’s not us to say. That’s EPA. That’s their deal. Just use a little bit of common sense and respect your neighbors and stuff like that and as long as you do that, then we won’t have any problems,” said Jett, adding his department has already responded to brush fires that have started alongside roads because of a cigarette butt thrown from a car.
Jett says the grass may look green on top, but underneath that it is very dry.
“Fires happen every day, but we are trying to prevent the ones that can be prevented,” said Johnson.