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Lawrence County Issues Burn Ban
Updated May 5, 2013 1:07 AM | Filed under: WBIW News
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(BEDFORD) - No rain. Heat. A nice breeze. That, fire officials warned, is the perfect recipe for a fire. That's why Lawrence County has issued a burn ban.

Because of extremely dry conditions, Lawrence County officials have issued a burn ban effective immediately.

No open burning is allowed with the exception of gas or charcoal grills.

Other area counties have not issued a ban - yet. But officials say a ban could be issued if there is no rain - soon.

Guthrie Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brian Hutchinson says conditions are right for field, grass, or woods fires to start and spread quickly.

"It wouldn't take much for a fire to start because of the extremely dry conditions," Hutchinson says. "In the woods there is a lot of under growth and the yards may look green but there is no moisture content. It is going to be extremely hot this weekend and that will dry out conditions even more."

Another concern is that fires can spread quickly putting structures in danger.

"Some people think, oh it's just a field fire, but in these conditions they spread fast and head toward structures putting property and possibly lives in danger," Hutchinson says.

It's not easy on firefighters either. Wearing full turnout gear in these extreme temperatures puts firefighters at risk of heat emergencies.

"There is the possibility of dehydration and heat stroke," Hutchinson says. "We are lucky we have TOPS to provide beverages and help us out at the scene. When conditions are like this firefighters are rotated on the scene, so they don't face those problems but it is always a concern."

Hutchinson says no one ever intends to start a field fire, but it happens.

"99 percent of them are started by accident," He says. "But we need people to be careful. It only takes one spark from a campfire, or burning trash and within minutes we have a huge field or woods fire."

Thursday, Boone County issued a voluntary burn ban. And there are eight other counties around the state Wabash, Carroll, Grand, Knox, LaGrange, Steuben, St. Joseph, Noble and Marshall that have issued mandatory bans.

Officials warn that even though some grassy areas may look green, the under-brush is very dry.

Field fires can quickly create other dangers, too.

"It's a big risk for the firefighters, says Mike Martin, deputy director of Boone County Emergency Management Agency. "You're out there trying to do it, and ... of course when you see red lights people don't slow down, so they come through the smoke and they're on top of you. So you have to shut lanes down. So it makes it very dangerous."

When a county does issue a burn ban it becomes illegal to have an open flame.

"A burn ban means you can't burn at all by state statue, which comes with fines and can be criminal," Martin says.

Some counties fine up to $500 for burning during a burn ban.

Martin says if the open flame becomes a working fire, fire departments can make the person responsible cover their costs.

"Last year we had a burn ban, and we did issue one citation. We had over 14 fire departments there fighting that fire," Martin says.

The Fourth of July is looming, and all county officials are on high alert. Fourth of July firework displays could be cancelled, if it doesn't rain and there is plenty of it.



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