Pettis County Fire Department officials are reminding citizens to alert law enforcement when they will be conducting a controlled burn.
Citizens are encouraged to notify the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office or their local fire department in advance of a controlled burn. PCFD Chief Mike Harding said the volunteer department responds to two to three controlled burns a month, which he said is an unnecessary use of resources.
“Any time we get called out away from the station, if it’s a controlled burn, they’re burning taxpayer money,” Harding said. “Fueling the trucks, wear and tear on the apparatus; the times that we respond out to a controlled burn, that’s spending money that doesn’t need to be. We’re trying to eliminate unnecessary runs.
“Also, anytime you have an apparatus running an emergency, the public does not know how to properly respond; some stop right in front or sometimes they go to the right. You always take that chance of endangering the public as well as firefighters. … (Calling in a controlled burn) can definitely cut down on a lot of risk.”
When citizens call officials in advance of a controlled burn, dispatchers will log the incident so an emergency response will not occur when unknowing citizens see and then report the fire.
Harding noted that two or three unnecessary calls a month over a year’s time can really start to add up, especially for a volunteer fire department.
“We live in a cellphone happy world right now, so the first thing people do when they see a fire is they want to call it in,” Harding said. “If we know already, (dispatchers) can say we have the situation under control and thanks for your call.
“If (those conducting the burn) don’t call in, they think it’s just a small fire, well that small fire, it creates taxpayer cost. We’re trying to eliminate that issue by going through the sheriff’s department.”
Citizens are allowed to conduct a controlled burn with brush piles, grass or household items — such as paper waste and garbage from daily activities — that can be contained within a 55-gallon barrel, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, although DNR “strongly discourages open burning of any material prior to investigating alternatives.” More information can be found on the DNR website.
Any citizen burning items not permitted by DNR or their city or county will be subject to a fine from DNR. Harding said during his nine months with PDFD he’s seen several incidents where the fire department was called to a fire that was later fined by DNR.
For those who will be conducting a controlled burn, Harding said the most important thing to keep in mind is simply common sense.
“If winds are gusting at 25, 30 miles an hour, it’s not a bright idea to burn. I know everyone has certain times, they want to plan their days out … but we even get people that if that’s the day they set aside and there’s wind (and they burn anyway), it gets away from them,” Harding said.
He also recommended watching the forecast and having at least two people on hand in case something unexpected happens with the fire.
To notify officials if you will be conducting an upcoming controlled burn, call the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office at 60-827-0052 or contact your local fire department.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.