MOUNT VERNON — Knox County firefighters have been busy over the past few days extinguishing around 30 field and grass fires, most started by residents illegally burning trash and brush.
Capt. Brian Durbin of the Eastern Knox County Joint Fire District said his department responded to at least six such fires between Friday and Sunday, even though open burning is banned in the state between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., March through May.
“Because all of the grasses are dead and haven’t greened up yet, just a little bit of heat from a spark, and away it goes,” Durbin said of field fires such as the five-acre one EKCJFD firefighters fought Sunday afternoon on Snively Road.
A fire on Earnst Road near Keck Road on Saturday afternoon charred about four acres of standing corn, according to Larry Schunke, Fredericktown Community Fire District Assistant Chief.
The Central Ohio Joint Fire District fought several grass and field fires in its district this past weekend, as well as providing mutual aid to fire departments in neighboring Licking County.
In the past four days, each department serving Knox County has been called to put out grass or field fires within its fire district.
Schunke said he believes people may not be aware of the burning laws.
“A lot of people don’t know the laws about burning, or maybe they forget,” he said. “We just want to remind them.”
Open burning is always restricted within the city limits of Mount Vernon, as well as within the village limits of Danville, Gambier, Centerburg, Martinsburg, Bladensburg and Fredericktown.
The open burning of brush, even in the country, is illegal in Ohio during the burn ban months of March, April, May, October and November during the day.
Schunke said many homeowners want to clean up their property and burn debris at the first signs of spring, but this is the most dangerous time for open burning.
“When it gets nice and dry and windy out, that’s not the time to burn,” he said.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, about 500 wildfires are reported during the spring wildfire season, burning approximately 3,000 acres.
Violators of Ohio’s burning regulations are subject to citations and fines. They also risk damaging not only their property, but that of their neighbors.
Open burning is permissible in most fire districts outside city and village limits, during the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. during March, April, May, October and November. The fire must be kept at least 1,000 feet from all inhabited structures, and be kept well away from woodlands, brushland or a field containing dry grass of other flammable materials.
Only agricultural materials from the property, such as brush and tree limbs, are acceptable to be burned, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Trash, rubber, treated wood, petroleum materials, carpet and asphalt shingles are examples of what is not legal to burn.
The Ohio Division of Forestry encourages residents to be aware of the weather, and have water and fire suppression tools such as fire extinguishers available while burning debris.
If a fire does escape control, call the fire department immediately. An escaped wildfire, even one burning only grass or weeds, can be dangerous.
Property owners should check with their local fire department about exact burning restrictions in their neighborhood.