County struggles with out-of-control fires

By Josh Arnett
McPherson Sentinel – April 23, 2014

The McPherson County Commission discussed the county’s current burn ban policies at its meeting Monday morning.

County fire chiefs have expressed concerns about the number of control burns that have gotten out-of-control recently, which haven’t given them enough rehabilitation time.

Darren Frazier, county director for emergency management, brought resolutions to ban all burns in the county until moisture conditions improve. The commission decided the county’s current policies, if properly enforced, should be sufficient.

Open burning is currently not allowed when the National Weather Service issues a red flag warning for McPherson County. This warning is issued based on conditions such as humidity, wind conditions and dryness that might promote the spread of fires.

Controlled burns are not allowed six hours before or after a red flag warning is scheduled.

In addition, fire chiefs can direct dispatch not to allow burns in areas their stations cover if their resources are already committed at another fire.

“A lot of people want to burn when it’s not allowed, and they go ahead and do it and it gets away from them,” said Rick Unruh, assistant fire chief for McPherson. “It can end up burning other people’s property, and they could wind up in the court system and paying us for the cost of responding.”

County residents are required to alert 911 dispatch before beginning a controlled burn, at which time a dispatcher can inform them of any current burn bans. Those who violate these policies could be fined.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster