Burn ban extended indefinitely
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Oct. 14, 2005 -- Outdoor burning continues to be forbidden in Hopkins County following action earlier this week by county commissioners.

According to Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap, unanimous action was taken by county commissioners Monday to continue the ban on outdoor burning until there is adequate rainfall to relieve the extremely dry  conditions present in the county.

The decision came after discussion about the continued dry conditions and above-normal temperatures, according to Millsap. 

�It�s been over 90 days that we have been in this drought condition,� he said. �The conditions are still deplorable.�

Although a burn ban has been in effect for the past four months, some burning has been allowed on a very limited basis after an investigation by county fire officials.

�They have gone out and invested a situation with the person that needs to destroy something because it is a nuisance or an emergency situation,� he said. �Therefore, we have given permits to those people that need to burn.�

The permits stipulate that the burn be made in a controlled environment and with sufficient resources immediately available to put the fire out when it is completed. Also, the county has required that a fire department have equipment nearby.

The judge said that many people do understand the need to prohibit or strictly limit outdoor burning, but there have been others that have ignored the ban and have conducted burns in violation of the county ordinance.

Not only does violating the ordinance carry criminal penalties, including fines of up to $500, a fire that escapes control has the potential for burning houses and other property as well as the possibility of putting lives in jeopardy.

Sheriff’s officers and county firefighters are called on a daily basis to investigate and extinguish illegal fires, but Millsap said he was unaware of any citations being issued.

�I do know the sheriff�s department is required to honor the burn ban, and if someone is in violation and does not have a permit from the fire department, they are guilty of an offense,� he said.

The judge said anyone who has an urgent need to burn something should contact the county fire department to begin the process of obtaining a permit.

There is currently no charge for a burning permit, only approval from the county fire department, but that could change.

�If we have a sufficient number of calls to incur costs to the county and fire department, we will probably start charging a permit fee,� he said.

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