Fire chiefs: Countywide burn ban will be enforced

Area firefighters are stressing the importance of following the recently-imposed ban on open burning in Whitley County.On Monday, the Whitley County Fire Chiefs’ Association issued a ban countywide on all open burning until further notice.While township and city firefighters have said they don’t plan to issue fines for violating the ban, they do say the ban will be enforced.“We’re going to go put out the fire, that’s enforcing the ban,” said Thomas E. LaRue, Columbia City fire chief.“There will also be the added embarrassment of having to have the fire department come out.”LaRue said that the various fire departments have the prerogative of charging the violators for the fire run.He said the decision of whether or not to bill the resident in violation is up to the discretion of each fire chief.Washington Township Fire Chief Jeremy Hammel mirrored LaRue’s comments.“You’re not necessarily breaking the law, but you are in violation of the ban and we will enforce that ban by coming out and putting out the fire whether you want us to or not,” said Hammel.“Under this ban, the fire department has the right to put out your fire and we will exercise that right.”Hammel said there was an airtight consensus among the county’s top firefighters to take these measures in reaction to frequent grass fires sparked by drier than normal conditions.“All nine chiefs in the county unanimously decided to do this,” Hammel said.LaRue spoke before the Columbia City Common Council Tuesday night and reiterated the need for the ban.“This is Fire Prevention Month,” said LaRue, who cited the significance of that designation in light of all the problems associated with open flame and dry weather conditions.“You can grill your food on charcoal,” but if you have open flame and we get a call, you’re in violation,” he said.The chief said more than 70 counties in the state currently have such bans.