Dry conditions prompt burn ban in county

Like flame and gasoline, dry weather and moderate-to-high winds make a volatile pair.When you add the burning, floating ember of a carelessly-monitored trash fire, you’d better hope you have your local volunteer fire department on speed dial.The Whitley County Sheriff’s Department reported seven grass fires over the weekend from Friday through Sunday.The fires burned countless acres and were primarily caused by controlled burns spreading out of control.“People are just out burning grass and leaves and with things being as dry as they are, they’re (the fires) just getting away from them,” said Cleveland Township Fire Chief Joe Jackson on Monday.Jackson’s township reported two fires over the weekend, one which burned north of South Whitley near Ind. 5 and consumed approximately 10-15 acres, according to the chief. Another fire, located west of South Whitley on Ind. 14 burned one to three acres, according to Jackson.Zack Rumsyre, assistant chief for Jefferson Township, said one fire sparked in his jurisdiction on Sunday, igniting in a cornfield and consuming eight to 10 acres.The fire occurred at the intersection of CR 800 S. and Ind. 9.“Someone was burning scrap wood from a wood pile and the wind yesterday (Sunday) was pretty heavy,” said Rumsyre. “A few of those embers from the fire went into the cornfield and it took off from there.”Rumsyre was glad to see the open burn ban issued by the Whitley County Fire Chiefs Association although he said the ban was unenforceable.“We’re not going to issue any fines,” he said, “but there won’t be any controlled burns. If we’re called to a fire, we’re going to put it out.”Rumsyre said his colleagues in the county’s fire departments are hoping for rain soon that will reduce the dry conditions that have provided the fuel for the fires.“That’s (rain) what we’re praying for,” he said. “Until then, I hope everyone just uses common sense because one ember from a trash fire can start the whole thing.”There were also fires in Smith, Columbia and Washington townships.The fire chiefs issued the ban Monday until further notice, when firefighting officials determine conditions have improved.