If Whitley County residents needed any more assurance of the need for a county-wide ban on open burning, this past weekend’s activity of the county’s fire departments provided all the evidence necessary.
At least nine non-structural fires involving grass, crops, trees and brush were reported to the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department from Friday through Sunday.
Smith Township firefighters responded to a fire in a harvested cornfield at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday when a resident burning debris had embers catch the dry cornstalks ablaze.
“This was kind of an unusual situation because the gentleman who was burning is an over-the-road trucker and he had no idea there was a (burn) ban and said had he known he wouldn’t have been burning and I can understand that,” said Bennett.
“We had it under control in about five minutes.”
The fire occurred in Smith Township near County Road 150 North and consumed about one acre, according to Bennett.
Bennett said his department also responded in concert with members of Allen County’s Eel River Township in Huntertown to a fire one hour before the cornfield fire call came in.
On Friday, county dispatchers received calls on open burning in Washington Township near County Road 900 South when a resident reported the smoke of a fire traveling to their residence.
Richland Township firefighters responded to a call on Saturday reporting trees on fire and in Cleveland Township the same day, a wood pile was reported burning.
The busiest day of the weekend however was Sunday, with six fires not involving buildings called into the Sheriff’s Department.
Aside from the cornfield fire in Smith Township, Washington Township responded to two separate blazes, both on or near Ind. 9, one of those near County Road 800 South.
Union Township firefighters were called on Sunday to a fire on Ruckman Road and Thorncreek Township was called on fires on Carlywood Drive and one on county Road 500 North, according to the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department.
Washington Township Chief Jeremy Hammel reiterated the need for the ban, which was reinforced today by an ordinance passed by the Whitley County Commissioners.
At press time, the commissioners were scheduled to pass an ordinance backing up the current open burning ban instituted last week by the Whitley County Fire Chief’s Association.
“It just basically backs up what’s already in place,” said Hammel today.
“It’s (the burn ban) still in effect and is obviously needed and we need to take it seriously.”