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Ohio’s open burn ban begins

Dry debris, wind and embers recipe for brush, forest fires

MARTINS FERRY — It only takes one ember or a flicked, still-burning cigarette to start a brush or forest fire, which is why Ohio’s open burn ban is now in effect.

Warmer weather coupled with still-dry leaves and debris outside at this time of year can lead to out-of-control fires if people are conducting open burns outside.

According to Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ information, open burning is prohibited across the state between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the months of March, April, May, October and November.

Martins Ferry Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tom Kelly said Monday that his department responded to a mutual aid brush fire in Brilliant last week in the Cardinal power plant property area. He said it appeared someone was stripping an area of brush and weeds and left a burn unattended. It spread to a woodline.

Despite the cold, snow and ice still on the ground, the fire still burned. Firefighters had to use ATVs to reach the blaze.

“It was snowing and there was ice on the hills — you wouldn’t think it would burn like that, but it did,” Kelly said. “It shows how out of control it can get. … We didn’t get back until 11:30 p.m.”

Brookside Volunteer Fire Department Chief Alan Ketzell said the open burn ban is meant for all residences; however, most cities and villages have laws on the books that ban open burning year-round.

Some municipalities may allow fire pits, but often they can only be a certain size.

He noted that after 6 p.m. those who live outside of corporation limits are not supposed to burn within 1,000 feet of another structure. Also, people should be careful about the conditions no matter what time of day or year — if it is windy do not try to burn anything. The embers can fly away and catch dry debris on fire.

“Be safe. Make sure it’s attended at all times and there is a water source. Make sure the debris around the pile is not dry. You don’t want that fire to get into the woodline and start the woodline on fire,” Ketzell said.

Ketzell said people should also be good neighbors and not burn items that have toxic smoke or fumes that can blow into people’s homes.

The DNR notes those who are accustomed to burning their yard waste may want to consider alternatives such as composting. It also notes a person can be “held liable for damages caused as a result of a fire that they kindle.”

Ohio Revised Code 1503.18 states, “No person shall kindle a fire upon public land without the written permission of the forest-fire warden having jurisdiction or on land of another without the written permission of the owner or the owner’s agent.”

The law goes on to state that open fires are not permitted near woods, brush, any land containing trees, or “in any place from which the fire is likely to escape unless all leaves, grass, wood, and inflammable material surrounding the place where the fire is kindled have first been removed to a safe distance and all other reasonable precautions have been taken to prevent its escape from control.”

The law also notes permitted open burns should not be left unattended and should be extinguished properly.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency notes open burns even with materials such as wood and yard waste, can emit toxic smoke. Some items should never be burned including garbage, materials that contain grease, rubber or asphalt or dead animals.

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