by Noel Barteck
We are already more than halfway through October, and as you look around, the leaves are beginning to change. Days are getting noticeably shorter and we have to wonder how another summer could slip away so fast?
As fall approaches many people are inspired to do some Fall clean up before the snows of winter set it. Often times, this involves getting rid of piles of brush, dead grass, and the inevitable mounds of leaves which will soon be cascading onto our lawns. It is tempting to take the “quick way out” and burn these unwanted piles. This is not always the best solution, however, and must be done with great care so as to avoid the unintended side effect of a wild land fire. (Any fire on unimproved areas such as wood lots, grassy fields, marshes, etc. is classified as a wild land fire.)
A much safer and more ecologically sound method for dealing with dead grass and leaves is to compost them. Both Owen and Withee have sites where you can drop off leaves and grass to be composted. If, however, you opt for burning these items there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First, you should give the Clark County Sheriff’s Department a call at their non-emergency number of 715-743-3157 and let them know you will be conducting a controlled burn. If the dispatchers are aware of a controlled burn, and a passerby should see your fire and call it in, the Sheriff’s Department will not dispatch the fire department. If you neglect or forget to make this call, and we are dispatched, you will receive a bill for the call. The Sheriff’s Department can also advise you if there is a burning ban in effect for your area. A while back the fire department was dispatched for “a brush fire along the tracks” somewhere between County Highway D and County Highway P. (If you check a map you’ll note that there are several miles of track between those two road crossings, with no access in between.) This necessitated contacting Canadian National to have all train traffic stopped while the department used their ATV to patrol the track between these two points. Lots of manpower was wasted and it was costly to the railroad. The ‘brush fire’ turned out to be someone’s campfire.
Second, make sure that burning is done in the evening when the dew point is usually higher. The dampness will make any run-away fire easier to control, since it shouldn’t spread quite so fast.
Third, refrain from burning during periods of moderate to high wind conditions. It is a no brainer that wind can push a fire very rapidly should it get out of control.
Fourth, don’t assume that your fire cannot get out of control. Make sure you have enough manpower on hand, with the proper equipment, to control the fire should it start to take off where you don’t want it to go.
Fifth, be sure you have a plan in place for reporting the fire should the unthinkable happen and it gets out of control. If you plan to use your cell phone, be sure you have coverage in the area, or you might elect to use walkie-talkies to maintain contact with someone at a land line who can make the 911 call for you.
Sixth, be sure that your fire is dead out before leaving the area unattended. In several instances wildfires have been caused when sparks from a controlled burn, or burning barrel, have ignited dead grass and dry leaves or pine needles. If you would like to know more of the dangers of burning debris in dry conditions. I would invite you to Google the Cottonville Forest Fire or the Town of Big Flats, Wisconsin and do more research on the matter. The man who caused the Cottonville fire was sentenced to probation, community service hours, and must pay restitution for damages that totaled about 1.5 million dollars.
We want you all to stay fire safe!
The Sentinel & Rural News covers the news and events of Clark County and southern Taylor County, as well as regional news that affects those areas.