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The burning issue

Published: Friday, April 13, 2012 5:50 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, April 13, 2012 6:07 p.m. CDT

PRINCETON — Bureau County firefighters have been busy this year with brush, grass and field fires.

Diana Stiles, director of the Bureau County Emergency Telephone System Board (BuEComm), said Bureau County firefighters have responded to a total of 44 brush, grass and field fires so far this year, with seven of those fires happening in January, five in February, 28 in March and four in April, as of noon Wednesday.

Stiles reminded Bureau County residents it’s important for them to contact their local fire department and BuEComm before starting any controlled burn so emergency officials know of their plans. Residents will be asked to provide their name, the location of the planned burn, contact information for the person watching the fire, and when they plan to start the open burn. Also, residents will be asked to contact their fire department and BuEComm when the fire is completed, Stiles said.

The Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office has also issued a warning to Illinois residents.

“We encourage our Illinois residents to become our eyes and ears while enjoying the beauty of our state parks and other forest preserves during warm weather,” Illinois State Fire Marshall Larry Matkaitis said. “By becoming more vigilant and educated on wildfire safety, serious incidents of fires on state sites can be prevented.”

Fires in March burned nearly 400 acres at the Sand Ridge State Forest in Mason County and dozens of acres at the Lincoln Trail State Park in Clark County, Matkaitis said.

Locally, Princeton Fire Chief John Petrakis said the Princeton Fire Department has responded to three field/brush fires and assisted two neighboring fire departments with field fires so far this year.

Petrakis said the most important point he wants communicated to local and rural residents who are served by the Princeton Fire Department is the safety aspects of open burning, which includes the importance of being aware of outdoor conditions when planning an open burn.

“Along with dry conditions, wind speed can have a very strong influence on the fire’s growth and extension,” Petrakis said. “With the recent high wind conditions we have experienced over the past couple of weeks, we want to reiterate how mindful we all need to be of open burning during moderate to high wind conditions. We ask that people plan their open burning activities according to the weather forecasts and be attentive to any wind advisories that are placed in effect for the Princeton and surrounding rural areas.”

Petrakis said Princeton’s open burning ordinance allows open burning from April 1 through May 1. Open burning is permitted on all days except Mondays and Fridays, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, burning days may be further restricted if weather or other unsafe conditions exist.

As far as other restrictions listed in the ordinance, Petrakis said burning of landscape waste may be considered unlawful when it causes a public nuisance. Also any burning shall be at least 25 feet from any structure or vehicle and must not occur on public property. Fires must be attended by a responsible person at all times and a means of extinguishment must be available. Smoke must not obstruct the view on a street, sidewalk or railroad truck, the fire chief said.

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