Regional fire fighters have already had some major infernos to combat and local conditions are serious enough that there have already been some close calls.
So until we get some rain — or at least until next Monday — it is official. Barton County has a burning ban.
Emergency Risk Manager Amy Miller met with the Barton County Commission Monday morning to discuss the issue and noted that conditions are getting worse, as high winds, unseasonably hot weather — until this weekend, of course — and a lot of dead vegetation all combine to make for potentially disastrous conditions.
All that is needed is the right spark and a lack of attention.
Miller noted that, when conditions warrant it, ag producers will still be able to conduct agricultural burning, but they will have to get permission from their local fire officials.
Commenting on the action taken Monday by the commission, Miller stated: “This proclamation states that due to extremely dry weather conditions an extreme fire hazard exists in Barton County.
“Effective at 12:01 p.m. on May 16, open campfires and fires are prohibited.
“Burning of fence rows, fields, wildlands, ravines and other debris may only be done upon issuance of a written permit by the fire chief having jurisdiction of the area where the burning is to take place.
“Individuals wanting to burn must contact the fire chief who has jurisdiction of the area where the burning is to take place. The fire chief may or may not issue a burning permit.
“Violation of this state of emergency may result in fines of up to $2,500.
The current ban is effective until noon, next Monday. “At that time it may be extended if weather conditions do not improve,” Miller noted.
Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano said one of the concerns is that the high winds that have plagued the region this year could easily get a rural fire burning and move it out of brush or agriculture areas and to houses or other rural buildings.
As a long-term answer, he added, it’s a good idea to plan for brush-free areas around rural homes and out buildings and to create green spaces that can serve as fire breaks.
According to a national group that educates about rural fire dangers — Firewise Communities — some safety steps should include:
• Prune trees so the lowest limbs are six to 10 feet from the ground and remove dead or over hanging branches.
• Within five feet of the home, use nonflammable landscaping materials, such as rock, pavers, annuals, and high-moisture-content perennials.
• Select low-growing plants with high moisture content that are free of resins, oils, or waxes that burn easily.
• Remove leaves and pine needles from gutters and around your home and attachments, such as decks and fences.
Longer term tips include:
• Use non-combustible construction materials, such as stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding.
• Consider using Class-A asphalt roof shingles, clay tile, or slate roofing materials.
The national Firewise Communities program is an inter-agency program designed to encourage local solutions for wildfire safety.