Burn bans imposed county wide

Friday, June 29, 2012

Fireworks and open burning are banned until further notice in Lewisburg, Cornersville and Petersburg, managers in those municipalities have announced.

Meanwhile there's a ban against open burning but not against shooting fireworks in Chapel Hill, and Marshall, Maury, Giles, Cheatham, Dickson, Gibson, and Sumner counties.

Triple digit temperatures reaching 108 and more Friday, as well as the dry weather with no relief in sight, are reasons for the bans.

"The conditions are just too dry," Cornersville Town Administrator Taylor Brandon said Friday. "It would be too much of a risk to have fireworks burning."

Within a couple of hours, State Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson issued a burn ban for seven mid-state counties, declaring it effective immediately and to remain in place until further notice.

The ban applies to all open-air burning including leaf and woody debris and construction burning, campfires, outdoor grills and other fire activity outside of municipalities where local ordinances apply.

The state-ordered burn ban does not prohibit the use of fireworks. However, residents should check local restrictions and they're encouraged to attend public fireworks displays instead of shooting their own fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday.

Chapel Hill Administrator Mike Hatten explained his town's policy and practice since the town is the only place in Marshall County where there will be a public display of fireworks.

The fire department will saturate the softball field a Forrest High School where the city-fired skyrockets will be launched, Hatten said.

"We do have a burn ban," he continued when asked about back yard grills. "It's one of those things where we're not going to ban anyone with an open grill for steaks or hot dogs or steaks.

"We're not going to have a fireworks ban in the city for residents. There really are not that many open fields in the town that would lead us to have to do anything like that," ban personal use of fireworks.

Chapel Hill Fire Chief Kenneth Runk put his town on notice Wednesday.

The Petersburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen met Monday and decided to impose the ban on fireworks and open burning.

"Our board members discussed it and they were all in agreement that we need to minimize that risk as much as possible," Alderman Kenneth Richardson said. "We're sending out notices with our water bills."

Saturday, it's Petersburg Proud Day in this town of several hundred on the Marshall and Lincoln counties' line.

"I'm afraid the heat will hold our attendance down," Richardson said. "But I might volunteer for the dunking booth just to stay cool."

Petersburg Proud Day includes a pancake and sausage breakfast offered by the Pickin' and Grinners who perform every second Saturday night on the square, dinner middle day is available from the Lions Club with hot dogs, coke and chips. Pork Loin and BBQ will be prepared by the town's Parks and Rec committee on Saturday afternoon and evening.

There's a Classic Car Cruise-In at 4 p.m. A dunking booth and bounce house will be available during the day. There's a 1950s sock hop at the end of the day.

In Cornersville, Brandon said, "We started (discussing a burn ban) a few days ago and we made our decision Thursday afternoon."

The mayor and aldermen were polled by telephone and e-mail.

"It's a ban on all burning and fireworks, but we didn't extend it to out door grills, but obviously people should use caution," Brandon said.

"We're going to ask every one to comply," Brandon said. "If they don't, they'll be warned. If they continue, there will be a fine. We're asking for voluntary compliance on the outset. Hopefully, we won't have to issue a warning. A violation would result in a $50 fine per occurrence, so you could make the case that if they were warned they could be fined $100.

Under state law, the commissioner of agriculture, in consultation with the state forester, has the authority to issue burn bans at the request of county mayors under certain weather conditions. Requests from county mayors for a burn ban are considered in consultation with the state forester based on a number of factors including weather, climate, fire danger, fire occurrence and resource availability.

"We're working with local officials to take action when requested and where appropriate to reduce the risk to citizens, property and emergency workers," Johnson said. "With the extremely dry conditions and little prospect for rain anytime soon, we want to encourage the public to use good judgment and to avoid situations that can cause fire, even in areas not covered under a burn ban."

A violation of a Commissioner of Agriculture Burn Ban is considered reckless burning and is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor which carries a fine of $2,500 and/or up to 11 months 29 days in jail.

State and local firefighters are seeing more fires statewide. Major causes include sparks from field equipment and vehicles, escaped debris burns, discarded cigarettes, lightening, campfires, arson and fireworks. Citizens can help support their local fire departments by checking for and following local burn restrictions and quickly reporting any wildfire.