Douglas County issued a burn ban today that will stay in place for the next month, yet still allow some opportunity for burning pasture at safe times.
Prompted by an unusually high number of out-of-control grass fires in recent weeks, the ban is unlike any the county has ever issued, County Administrator Craig Weinaug said.
The blanket ban will remain in effect until April 16. During that time, the county will rely on the National Weather Service’s Rangeland Fire Danger Forecast — which is updated frequently — to indicate periods when it is safe to burn.
Burning will be prohibited any time the Rangeland Fire Danger is listed as very high or extreme, or when a Red Flag Warning is issued. Outside of those times, burning will be allowed but Weinaug urged residents to do so with caution. Landowners wishing to burn pasture are urged to call their local township fire departments to let them know, as a precaution.
“Because it’s been so cold, the normal spring vegetation hasn’t started up yet to mix in with all the dry fuel on the ground,” Weinaug said. “And when it gets very, very windy, any fire that’s set has danger of getting out of hand.”
How can residents find out when they can burn and when they can’t? There are three options.
• Go online to the following link to see the Rangeland Fire Danger Forecast, and look for Douglas County: http://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=TOP&product=RFD&issuedby=TOP
• Call Douglas County emergency dispatch at 843-0250.
• Call your local township fire department.
Weinaug said that while the ban is “somewhat complicated,” it’s hoped to keep people and property safe while still allowing the agricultural community to burn pasture — but only at times when conditions are appropriate.
The following are prohibited under the burn ban: careless use and disposal of smoking materials, open fires, campfires and the burning of fence rows, fields, ravines, trash or debris.
Fires in permanent stoves, fireplaces or barbecue grills at homes or in developed recreational sites are OK.
Firefighters had already responded to multiple fire calls today before Nancy Thellman, chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners, approved the ban, according to Douglas County Emergency Management. The board is expected to vote to formally extend the ban through April 16 during its meeting Wednesday night.