Fire department asks for notification of controlled burns

Published 6:00 am Friday, April 1, 2005

Lawrence County fire departments are requesting the help ofresidents in cutting unnecessary expenses.

Monticello Fire Chief Wayne Harrison said he would appreciateresidents calling the department when they are planning legalburns. Legal burns are those used by many farmers to refresh croplands.

“A lot of times, neighbors won’t know it’s a legal burn, willsee the smoke and report a fire,” he said. “Fuel has gotten soexpensive that these unnecessary runs are hurting our rural firedepartments.”

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Gas prices in recent weeks have surged over $2 a gallon, thehighest in history, and all indications point to increasing fuelcosts as the summer draws near. The summer months are traditionallyamong the highest in prices as demand escalates because of familyvacations and other factors.

As an example of how the policy could save money, Harrison saidthe Topeka Volunteer Fire Department recently responded to a smokecall and searched the area for 30 minutes before finding an undercontrol legal burn. The run consumed about 45 minutes worth offuel.

Although Harrison said it is difficult to evaluate gas mileageon a fire truck because they spend so much time idling to chargethe pumps or while on standby, he estimated they get about four tofive miles per gallon.

It would also be difficult to compare this year’s gasexpenditures to last year’s, the fire chief said, because moneyspent on gas is included among bills for other expenses.

“It hurts the rural departments more than the city because theirbudgets are much tighter, but it hurts the city as well,” hesaid.

Harrison said that while he “is by no means” not asking peopleto report a smoke sighting, he is requesting that farmers making alegal burn notify the department so that they can filter some ofthose calls.

The dispatcher would compare a smoke call with legal burnnotifications first to see if they might be the same. If that is apossibility, he said, they would then call the farmer and ask ifeverything was under control.

Harrison said the policy should also help the department bebetter prepared in the event a legal burn gets out of control.

“We’ll already know where they live so we’ll be prepared torespond to the location faster. We won’t have to get the usualresponse information at a time when the situation is critical,” hesaid.

Harrison said he would to see this policy to continueindefinitely.