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Franklin Co. burn ban to kick in Thursday

April 05, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Beginning at 3 p.m. Thursday all outdoor burning will be prohibited for at least 30 days and possibly longer as the Franklin County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday adopted a countywide burn ban.

With little rain during the first three months of the year, area fire departments and fire companies have been busy responding to fires, said Jerry Flasher, the county's director of emergency services. The county 911 dispatched firefighters to 71 brush fires, 13 mountain fires and 37 outside investigations of possible fires in March, he told the commissioners.

Flasher said he did not have a breakdown of how many of those incidents were the result of open burning. There has been property damage as a result of fires in the region, Flasher said, referring to the loss of two homes and damage to two others last week in a fire in Cascade, Md.

Leitersburg Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Kirk Mongan said at the time of the Friday fire that it appeared to have spread from a burn barrel.

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By state law, a request for the ban had to be made to District Forester Michael Kusko Jr. by a majority of the county's 21 fire chiefs, who then made the request in writing to the board, Flasher said. MMPW Fire Chief Dusty Stoner of Mercersburg, Pa., the president of the Franklin County Fire Chiefs Association, said Monday its members endorsed the ban last week at their monthly meeting.

The resolution is comprehensive and the ban supersedes bans already imposed by some municipalities, Flasher said. The resolution defines open burning as the burning of any combustible material - garbage, leaves, grass, twigs, litter, paper, yard waste or any other sort of debris - outside, whether it be in a burn barrel, fire ring or on the ground.

Outdoor cooking is permitted with a charcoal or gas grill, but not in an open fire pit, Flasher said.

Any police officer can issue a citation for a summary offense for outdoor burning, Flasher said. Offenders can be fined up to $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second and $300 for third and subsequent offenses, he said.

"We are substantially below normal for our rainfall," Flasher said.

Citing the National Weather Service in State College, Pa., Flasher said the county has had 7.37 inches of precipitation in 2006, compared to an average of 9.86 inches. Rainfall in the county was .77 inches in March, compared to the normal 3.8 inches, he said.

Parts of the county received half an inch to an inch of rain Monday as thunderstorms swept through the area, but Flasher said that did "relatively nothing as far as resolving the issue." The weather service is projecting rainfall levels over the next two months to be at or below normal, Flasher said.

National Weather Service meteorological technician Tony Mach said .68 inches of rain fell in the Harrisburg, Pa., area in March, making it the second-driest March since continuous records started being kept in 1888. The driest March was in 1910, when just a quarter of an inch of rain fell, he said.

County Administrator John Hart said this is the first burn ban in the county since the fall of 2001.

The county commissioners can extend the ban for another 30 days at the recommendation of the district forester, according to Flasher. To extend the ban beyond 60 days would require the fire chiefs to once again make a request of the district forester, he said.

The 48-hour delay before the ban becomes effective is "following the letter of the law" and allows time to give proper notification to the public, Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said.




No outdoor burning



The Franklin County Commissioners Tuesday adopted a countywide burning ban that will go into effect at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Allowed: Outdoor cooking with a charcoal or gas grill

Not allowed: Burning of any combustible material, including garbage, leaves, grass, twigs, litter, paper or yard waste outdoors in either a burn barrel (screened or unscreened), fire ring or on the ground

Fines: $100 for first offense; $200 for second offense; $300 for third and any subsequent offenses

History: This is the first burn ban in the county since the fall of 2001.

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