Campfires outlawed under burn bans

The number of northern Indiana counties imposing burn bans is spreading like wild fire.

Elkhart and Fulton Counties are the latest to ban open burning in light of extremely dry conditions.

Bans were previously imposed in the counties of St. Joseph, LaGrange, and Marshall.

Any kind of open burning is prohibited, including the burning of trash and leaves. The bans even outlaw the summertime favorite, the campfire—at least technically.

At Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty, St. Joseph County’s burn ban has been somewhat of a hot potato.

“Well, we’re from Merrillville, Indiana, we just, we’re going to meet up with our children and their families here,” said camper Tim DeVries. DeVries brought wood and said he planned to use it to start a campfire. “It’s just for ambience, that’s all, yeah, maybe S’mores.”

Because Potato Creek is a state park, the state has total control over what happens on its lands, “and we try to adhere to what the county has set up,” said Alex DeGroot with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “But you know, the campers, this is how they cook their food, camping is having a campfire so we understand that.”

In this case, Potato Creek has decided to dodge the burn ban bullet and allow campfires, making it even harder for the folks at a private campground just up the street to bite the bullet. “We’re going to follow the fire ban, we won’t allow fires if we can’t get the OK from the fire department,” said Rita Fields with Beaver Ridge Campground. “All the sites have water by them, within 10 to 15 feet of the fire pit.”

By the end of the day, Beaver Ridge reported that it had an agreement with the local fire chief to allow campfires as long as the facility took extra precautions to prevent those fires from spreading.

The burn bans do not appear to prohibit the use of fireworks, although St. Joseph County Commissioner Andy Kostielney says, “At this point, fireworks are still illegal until June 29th, it’s not permissible in the State of Indiana to use fireworks, so when we get to that point, our understanding is fireworks do not fall under our burn ban, but then we would have to look to take separate action if that’s the way we wanted to go,” said Kostielney.

In imposing its burn ban, Elkhart County “strongly encouraged” residents to refrain from the use of fireworks due to the dry weather conditions.

The Elkhart ban clearly prohibits the “open burning of debris, such as timber or vegetation, including such debris that results from building construction activities.”

A scheduled fireworks show will go on tonight at Coveleski Stadium, with a fire truck standing by.

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