Municipalities take many stances on burning
The burn ban issued by the Putnam County Commissioners on Wednesday left citizens of the incorporated areas of the county unclear on the status of burning in their communities.
While the proclamation sets forth what types of fires are and are not permissible in unincorporated areas, it remains up to the officials of the individual municipalities to determine their stance in light of current drought conditions.
The reactions of the town officials have varied from Roachdale enacting a ban in early October, to Greencastle abiding by a more permanent stance on recreational and other burns, to towns with no official policy at all.
Government and fire officials from the five incorporated towns and one city in the county spoke to the Banner Graphic on Friday about their policies.
Town clerk Jason Hartman said Bainbridge has no official policy in place, besides a ban on trash burning.
"The council has not done anything. We really have not seen any issues. I don't know the last brush fire we even had," Hartman said.
"You can't burn trash in town, but that's just part of the town code," he added.
However, Bainbridge Fire Chief Mike Smith said if the county has a policy, it is also in place for the town.
"We go along with the county, so the Town of Bainbridge is under (a ban) too," Smith said. "I think it's probably what most of the departments are doing. It's for seven days, and we'll lift it after seven days, I guess."
Cloverdale Township Fire Chief Kerry Shepherd said there has been no discussion of a ban between his department and the town council, so there is no policy.
"It would have to be up to the town board and myself," Shepherd said.
However, Shepherd's department also covers the remainder of the township, which is under the ban as an unincorporated area.
"At this time, there's no burn ban in the Town of Cloverdale, just in the county," Shepherd said.
Town council president Jeff Osborn said Fillmore has no burn policy.
"We don't have anything on the books," Osborn said. "I've been through our ordinances, and I don't believe there was anything regarding burning."
Fillmore has a unique situation in that the town itself is a square mile, but much of that area remains agricultural land.
"Fillmore has hundreds of acres of farm land within town limits," Osborn said. "If farmers want to clear their land and put a brush pile up, it's kind of difficult to put restrictions on that because of the nature of the layout.
"On the other hand, if you have people in the middle of town starting a fire that's going to spread to somebody's house, that's a different issue," he added.
With that in mind, open burning is allowed, but residents should continue to use their discretion.
"We don't have anything that specifically restricts burning," Osborn said. "We've really not had any problems with it. People tend to have barrels in their backyard, and as long as they watch it we don't get too picky."
The City of Greencastle already has a permanent burn policy, so fire chief Bill Newgent said nothing new has had to be enacted.
"The city has an ordinance in place that doesn't allow any open burning other than recreational fires, so, really, the burn ban that was put in place basically just comes in line with what we have already."
The exception is the county policy allows for trash burning in barrels with 1/4-inch mesh on top, which remains off limits in the city.
Additionally, before having a recreational burn, Greencastle residents are asked to get approval from GFD.
"When people want to have a recreational fire in the city, we ask them to contact us," Newgent said.
The chief added that people are showing increased awareness during the dry spell, so his department has not changed the standards by which it approves recreational burns.
"We haven't had any issues. I think a lot of people are using common sense just containing their fires and keeping them relatively small," he said.
Roachdale Fire Department was the first department in the county to act on the dry weather, enacting a burn ban in its district, which includes the town and Jackson and Franklin townships, on Oct. 6.
The ban includes any type of campfire, recreational fire, leaves, brush, rubbish and remains in effect until further notice.
In Russellville, the town council has not chosen to act, but council president Don Reddish said the residents are being smart and basically following the county policies.
"We do not have a ban in Russellville, just a county ban, and everybody pretty much goes along with it," Reddish said. "Everyone adheres to the no burn rule."