As Central Indiana sweats through the driest month of June on record, the Putnam County Commissioners enacted a partial burn ban as of 10 a.m. Thursday morning.
The emergency ban, which is in effect for seven days, applies to unincorporated areas throughout the county. It is up to city and town offcials to enact their own bans.
The ordinance reads in part:
Effective immediately the following activities are prohibited in Putnam County:
2. Open burning of any kind using conventional fuel such as wood, or other combustible matter, with the exception of grills fueled by charcoal briquettes or propane;
3. The burning of debris, such as timber or vegetation, including such debris that results from building construction activities.
The decree further states that burning in burn barrels with 1/4-inch mesh tops is permitted from dawn to dusk.
Violation of the ordinance is a Class B misdemeanor.
Fireworks are not expressly prohibited in the ordinance, but the commissioners are discouraging residents from their own fireworks displays.
"We strongly encourage residents to attend public displays of fireworks and limit their personal use of fireworks to those that do not leave the ground and that they refrain from using aerial fireworks devices," the law reads.
The ordinance is a reaction to the drought conditions the state is currently facing. According to the National Weather Service, this month is on pace to be the driest June on record.
Through June 27, total precipitation for the month at the Indianapolis International Airport is 0.05 inches. Average precipitation for the month is 3.82 inches.
The driest month of June on record was in 1988, when Central Indiana saw only 0.36 inches of rain. With no rain in the forecast through the end of the month on Saturday, the record is likely to fall.
Because the ordinance is an emergency measure, it did not require an official meeting of the commissioners. However, this is also the reason it remains in effect for only seven days.
If, as forecast, no significant rain occurs before then, a longer-standing ordinance is a likely topic of discussion at the Monday, July 2 meeting of the commissioners.
The actions of incorporated areas in the county are varied, but most are falling in line with the county guidelines.
The Cloverdale Town Council has enacted a burn ban for the corporate limits of Cloverdale in compliance with the county action.
Likewise, the Bainbridge Town Council ordered an emergency burn ban on Thursday afternoon, effective for seven days. Additionally, during the extreme heat, Bainbridge Town Hall will be open for cooling and public safety.
No official ban was released by the Town of Russellville but Town Clerk DeVon Davis said she had discussed the matter with council president Don Reddish, and the town plans to fall in line with the county regulations.
While Roachdale has released no official burn ban, Fire Chief Mike Poole said the entire fire protection district, which includes the town along with Franklin and Jackson townships, will be under the same restrictions as the county.
No official action has been taken by the Town of Fillmore.
With its already restrictive burn policy, the City of Greencastle has had to make few adjustments to its policy. Only recreational burns are allowed within city limits, and these must be within a 23-inch fire ring and pre-approved by the Greencastle Fire Department.
"We're asking people just to use common sense right now with it so dry," Fire Chief Bill Newgent said. Newgent said the combination of hot, dry, windy weather makes it easy for any fire to quickly get out of control.
Firefighters also ask people to be sensible with fireworks and not shoot them over structures or other people's property.
Finally, Newgent confirmed, contrary to the rumor mill, that fireworks are still planned for the Fourth of July at Robe-Ann Park.
"We are planning on continuing with that, full steam ahead," Newgent said.
The department is working with the fireworks contractors to ensure that all aerial fireworks are shot over the quarry so they will land in the water.
Additionally, there will be extra staffing for GFD that evening to deal with potential problems inside or outside of the park.