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Franklin Co. enacts burn ban

July 30, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - With the support of area fire chiefs and forestry officials, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners on Thursday declared a countywide ban on open burning for at least the next 30 days.

The ban takes effect at 8 a.m. today, according to Board Chairman G. Warren Elliott. The resolution bans all outdoor burning of trash, leaves, brush or other materials whether on the ground, in a burn barrel, or by other means.

While the resolution supersedes all municipal ordinances, Elliott said a 1995 state law allowing the ban did not give the county universal powers. At least 10 of the county's fire chiefs had to recommend the ban to District Forester Mike Kusko, who then forwarded the request to the board.

Elliott said he and County Emergency Management Coordinator Dennis Monn went to the fire chiefs' meeting Tuesday to answer any questions they had about the ban.

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"Among the chiefs at the meeting there was unanimous support for the ban," Elliott said.

A violation of the ban is a summary offense requiring a $100 fine for the first offense, $200 for the second and $300 for the third and subsequent violations, according to the resolution.

The ban comes a week after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge declared a drought emergency in Franklin and 54 other counties, with the other 12 counties under drought warnings or alerts.

Weather observer Todd Toth of Waynesboro said precipitation since Jan. 1 has been 20.6 inches, compared to the normal 24. While that may not sound like much of a shortfall, it follows an extremely dry autumn and winter. From Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, precipitation was 9 inches below normal, Toth said.

"This is really a preventative measure due to the dry conditions and the water table being so low," Monn said Thursday. "It really puts a strain on the water system if there's a senseless burn," he said.

Monn and Elliott both said there has been no rash of brush or woods fires during the drought. Elliott said, however, that any fire during the drought will put a strain on more than water supplies.

"The fires that have occurred have taxed the water supplies and the human resources of the fire companies," Elliott said.

A barn fire earlier this week in Montgomery Township required tens of thousands of gallons to be trucked to the site and a number of firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion.

Half the county's 22 municipalities had already declared outdoor burning bans prior to Thursday, according to Elliott.

"We encourage the other municipalities to enact their own bans, if only to heighten public awareness in their own communities," he said.

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