Illegal burns a hot topic

June 04, 2003 12:00 am

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

With fire season still two weeks away, local officials are saying illegal fires are already getting out of hand.

According to Fire Chief John McFarland of the Crescent Fire Protection District, people are not using common sense about how and when they can legally burn refuse.

"We had a fire, not a significant issue, that burned some grass and a 50-foot fence line. The interesting part is she was a repeat customer," McFarland said of the fire that got out of control on Breen Street Monday. Fire units responded to her residence last week when the woman tried to burn a reclining chair.

"She is an occupant without a burn permit, she was burning illegal materials, it was after hours, there was just about everything wrong with it," he said. "We had a discussion with her last week and we told her at that time there was nothing she had she could burn."

McFarland said his department has received nine fire calls since Sunday.

"It's been very busy already," he said. "We had a 100-foot fire behind Seawood Apartments West that was attributed to kids. A shed burned down on Breen Street — it was a total loss. We even had a campfire where someone was roasting hot dogs in a backyard."

Other fires this week include two on Pebble Beach Drive and a brush fire across from Bess Maxwell School.

McFarland said the most amazing incident took place when someone from out of the area transported brush into the county and started a 20-foot brush fire and then left.

"She called and asked why we put the fire out. Aside from the fact the fire needs to be attended, it was too big and she didn't have a permit ... Common sense needs to prevail in these situations," he said.

McFarland said permits must be attained before these fires can be lit. Fires outside burn barrels cannot be more than four feet in diameter.

Fire season begins on June 16.

Dave Webb, fire management officer for the Smith River National Recreation Area, said last week that an extensive growth of vegetation will probably increase the danger of forest fires this year.