Could the unseasonably warm weather spur more burn bans this winter? The county’s top fire official said the answer depends on weather conditions.
Alan Radcliffe, Franklin County Emergency Management director, county fire marshal and a rural firefighter, said residents should not rule out the possibility of another burn ban being issued. Burn bans typically must be issued on a daily basis, depending on the conditions of the day.
A one-day, county-wide burn ban was announced Monday in Franklin County after the forecast called for strong winds and warm temperatures. Radcliffe said county officials likely would take a watch-and-wait stance before passing any further burn ban resolutions.
“What we’ll do is go day by day. Especially now through probably March,” Radcliffe said. “A lot of it’s going to depend on if we get any moisture after the end of February.”
In the case of further burn bans, all open burning in the county would be restricted. Trash burning would be allowed in a barrel with a screen over the top to prevent embers from escaping. The Franklin County Board of Commissioners has the option to pass a resolution putting even tighter restrictions on burning, although that’s not likely at this point, Radcliffe said.
In winter, weather conditions are about normal, with cool season grasses still green and other grasses and vegetation already dead, Radcliffe said, so the lack of moisture doesn’t create as much of a fire danger as in the summer.
“What [played] a big role in us issuing a burn ban Monday is the fact that the wind was blowing more than 15 miles per hour,” Radcliffe said. “Things will just stay normal for us unless it gets to be a real windy day, and then we’ll take a look at things.”
Despite winter’s approach, fire danger remains, Radcliffe said, but firefighters shouldn’t have as much trouble controlling fires relating to grass. He urged residents to be cautious when doing any type of outdoor burning. In winter, the greater fire risk tends to come from in-home heaters and electrical fires.
Ottawa Fire Chief Jeff Carner echoed Radcliffe’s advice for caution and agreed with the lessened grass fire possibilities.
“It’s not something that you hear about that often I believe, but I don’t think it’s unheard of either,” Carner said. “Obviously we’re in the dry drought-like conditions. We’re just going to have to evaluate and see where they’re at, and obviously if we don’t get any rain, we may have to enact another burn ban.”
Open burning without a permit already is restricted within Ottawa city limits, Carner said, adding that people burning in the county should watch the weather forecast and understand the weather conditions. Residents also should remain at the site of the controlled burn and have appropriate resources available, he said.