Firefighter fatigue factor in ban

By Jackie Taylor
Linn County News – April 2, 2014
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – April 9, 2014

Despite a burn ban going into effect last Sunday, the Linn County Rural Fire Department was called out on 11 different fires, either started from embers left over from Saturday burns or new sets.

Fire Chief Doug Barlet, though given the ability to set burn bans when needed without commissioner approval, spoke with the commissioners Monday as the reason for the burn ban was poor burning conditions through several days and firefighter fatigue.

Barlet said, “On the bright side, 103 people called in with controlled burns that said the burns were completed, but from those fires, 12 burned out of control on Saturday and 19 on Sunday.”

He continued that even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had personnel on fires to assist Linn County over the weekend. Linn County was also called to a location south of Hume to help put a fire out in Bates County.

He then asked that the commissioners consider a burn ban, despite rain in the forecast on Wednesday, to allow firefighters some time to rest. He said they have been working nonstop for several days in a row, and he feared the volunteers would get to a point where they wouldn’t respond to calls any further.

Barlet said that despite the relative humidity level being at 87 percent on Saturday, the wind kicked several burning embers into flames on Sunday causing fires to burn out of control.

“In March we’ve had 156 fires,” said Barlet, “200 for the year. There were 67 mph winds at the state line; if fires weren’t out, sparks would start them again.

He said, “I want to let farmers burn, but we need to give the fire service a break.”

With that, both Commissioners Vicki Leonard and Mike Page voiced their agreement with the break.

“I’d like to ban fires for a week, even if conditions are okay,” said Barlet.

He then outlined that 37 fires on March 13 cost the county approximately $7,000 in firefighter payroll, $3,000 in fuel, and $1,600 for two pumps–which went out at $800 each–and from Feb. 15 through March 15 there was a total expense of $15,000 in payroll.

Barlet said he has $85,000 in the payroll budget and should be okay; if they go over in the account, he said it means he won’t get to purchase replacement gear or other items scheduled this year.

The commissioners voiced their thanks to the fire service for a job well done. Barlet said he’d probably lift the ban Sunday or Monday.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

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