Warren and Jasper counties banned outdoor burning this week, the latest of half-a-dozen Iowa counties with a burn ban now in effect. Firefighters in several parts of Iowa spent time this week battling wildfires in dry grass and brush.
State Fire Marshal Jim Kenkel says a drier-than-usual autumn has raised the fire danger everywhere. “This time of year, with the lower humidity and the lack of moisture, it is very dangerous, especially on windy days,” Kenkel says.
Kenkel’s office does not originate bans on outdoor burning, or simply declare it forbidden statewide. The local fire chief, board of supervisors or city council must request a ban from his office for their region. Right now, there are half-a-dozen in effect, four of them in counties in the southwestern part of the state and two in central Iowa.
The state’s top fire official wants to give a few simple pieces of advice to anybody thinking of staging a controlled burn this fall in Iowa. “Use some common sense,” Kenkel says, “Don’t burn when it is windy.” When you do decide to have a burn, Kenkel says you should never leave it unsupervised, just in case it starts to go out of control. And don’t dispose of cigarettes carelessly. He says it’s also a good idea to let the local fire department know ahead of time if you plan to burn a field or ditch, even though you don’t plan to need their help.
Kenkel says it’s important to let the local 9-1-1 communications center know, so they won’t send the fire department out to your controlled burn if somebody spots and reports it. In recent years there have been a few cases where a person was found dead at the site of a fire they’d been tending, and the fire marshal recommends not doing it without at least one companion.