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Burning ban overdue

April 02, 1999

After Tri-State area firefighters responded to at least 25 fires this past Tuesday - two of which claimed dwellings - it's time for all local governments to ban open burning. There are other, better ways to dispose of yard and household waste.

Many of Tuesday's fires were caused by people cleaning up yard debris, according to Alan Zentz, a fire supervisor with the Department of Natural Resources Forest Service. That's dangerous, Zentz said, because trees haven't leafed out yet and there's little shade to preserve moisture in fields and wooded areas.

Add to that the 15-mile-per-hour winds the area experienced that day, and sparks from small trash fires quickly spread the flames, blackening acres of forest land in some cases. Such fires also add to the costs of local fire/rescue units, and contribute to air pollution as well.

Thankfully, no one was seriously injured. Before that happens, we feel local governments, whose fire companies often assist each other regardless of state lines, should take a strong stand against open burning.

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We know it's traditional in some areas to burn trash in a 50-gallon barrel, or just in a pile. But there are other ways to dispose of trash and yard waste today. Most areas offer curbside pick-up, or for a reasonable fee, residents can cart their own refuse to a local landfill.

The same is true for local yard waste, although leaves and grass can also be used for mulch in vegetable gardens and around shrubs. And with the application of a little water and fertilizer, a pile of yard waste quickly turns into a compost that will enrich any garden or ornamental shrub.

Not convenient, you say? Think, then, about the convenience of your neighbors in the fire/rescue service who have to leave their own yards just because you couldn't find a better way to dispose of a pile of old leaves and branches.

Until the anti-litter group called Keep America Beautiful came along, many people just tossed trash along the roadside without a second thought. What local governments need now is a movement called Keep America Safe, to get residents to think twice about the dangerous practice of open burning.

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