More Michiana communities have decided to fight fire—with fines.
“Effective 6:00 o’clock tomorrow morning we’re going to ban burning in St. Joseph County,” said St. Joseph County Commissioner Andy Kostielney.
The dry conditions today sparked burn ban declarations in the counties of St. Joseph and LaGrange, and in the City of South Bend. Marshall County had previously imposed a ban of its own.
That means no more open burning until further notice. Violators can face fines up to $1,000.
The bans come in conditions so dry that mowing the lawn can produce a cloud of dust, and tossing a butt can create an impressive cloud of smoke.
“Last week we believe that somebody just flipped a cigarette butt out on the median and you can tell how dry it’s been,” said Mishawaka Fire Department Lt. Brian Linson.
What was once grass in the median at North Main Street and University Drive in Mishawaka is now toast, after catching fire last week.
“The last 39 days we’ve had one inch of rain, now it’s been 40 days, we’ve had one inch of rain and it just takes one second and that grass is just going to go up like hay,” said Lt. Linson.
Since the median fire, conditions have only become worse.
“We did a survey of all the local police chiefs and they were all in support of this measure, they told us unless we get at least an inch of rain that we shouldn't even consider lifting the ban,” said Commissioner Kostielney.
Two weeks ago, a field fire hit too close to the Brummitt Road home of Denise Slone in eastern St. Joseph County. “People over there were out with their garden hoses trying to spray it around, keep it down, luckily the wind was coming from the south to the north and kept it away from the houses over there,” said Slone.
The experience left Slone a strong burn ban supporter. “I’m afraid to even barbeque it’s so dry, when the ground crunches under your feel when you go walking.”
“A small fire can get out of control pretty quick,” said Battalion Chief Justin Stopczynski with the Clay Fire Territory. “You want to make sure that everybody’s safe, certainly a fire gets out of control it can involve structures and people can be liable for that.”
The burn ban does not apply to barbeque grills but would apply to campfires.
The ban will last until it is lifted—presumably after sufficient rainfall.