Winds fan small fires in Boone County

Fire District advises people to use caution with controlled burns
Friday, January 6, 2012 | 9:15 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A series of small outdoor fires kept the Boone County Fire Protection District busy on Friday.

By 3 p.m. the district had responded to about eight to ten fires in different parts of rural Boone County, said Battalion Chief Gale Blomenkamp, with the Boone County Fire Protection District.

“These fires are nothing serious in the fact of burning buildings, but they’re dangerous because of the wind speeds,” Blomenkamp said.

He said that the department advises people to not burn if winds exceed 5 to 10 miles per hour.

“During the winter, grass is dormant and is doesn’t take up water, even though we’ve had some rain recently and the ground may be wet,” Blomenkamp said.

He said that with excessive winds an ember blown from a fire or burn barrel could easily ignite the dried grass and vegetation.

The fire protection district issued a news release earlier in the week with precautions and tips for individuals wanting to burn during the winter months. These include:

  • Within Columbia's city limits burn permits must be issued by the Columbia Fire Department, but the county has open burn regulations for natural vegetation.
  • Check the local weather forecasts before burning, as winds can be very sporadic this time of year.

  • Provide a safe barrier around your burn. This may be achieved by mowing a clean strip around the area or by scrapping it down to bare dirt.

  • Have a water source nearby. A garden hose works well if used early in the event of a fire moving too quickly.

  • Never leave a fire, burn barrel or prescribed burn, unattended.

  • Notify the Joint Communications Center at 442-6131 prior to lighting your fire.

  • Call 911 immediately if the fire grows larger or moves more rapidly than anticipated.
  • If your fire burns out of control and causes damage to someone else’s property, you will be held liable for damages. This includes buildings, crops and even grasses.

Blomenkamp emphasized that people need to use caution when deciding and preparing to burn.

“As long as the wind keeps blowing, and people keep burning, we’ll keep fighting this battle,” Blomenkamp said.

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