Leaf burning leads to three fires in one day

PENN TOWNSHIP Local firefighters are warning residents about the hazards of open burning.

Penn Township responded to two larges field fires on Monday. One was in the 10000 block of Henry Road, and the other was in the 14800 block of Day Road.

“They were within 15 minutes of each other, on opposite sides of our territory,” said Brian Kazmierzak, battalion chief at Penn Township Fire Department. “Both were very large in nature. It really stretched our resources thin.”

Even with the snow melt, officials say dead vegetation is extremely dry and can burn very quickly. The wind can then spread it.

A similar scene played out in the 5500 block of Sundown Drive.

According to firefighters, a burning leaf pile was left unattended and the fire spread to a nearby house.

“People think they are going to go out and clean up their yards but it is going to be a big hazard,” Kazmierzak said.

St. Joseph County does not allow open burning, except under certain circumstances, and you must have a permit.

Some residents waiting for county leaf pickup are very frustrated. Several blocks in Clay Township have leaves piled up on both sides of the road.

“We took most of our leaves to the curb; they just sat there all winter,” said Dominick Romans, who lives in Clay Township.

St. Joseph County officials say bad weather is to blame for the delay in pickup.

The plan is to make Clay and Harris Townships top priorities for pickup because they never got their first collection. County officials say they hope to make progress by late April.

“Unfortunately, with weather that we had and timing it didn’t lend itself for us to have a successful program,” said county engineer Jessica Clark.

“It’s a complete mess,” said St. Joseph County commissioner Andrew Kostielney. “It’s the most unfortunate series of weather events.”

The contractor for leaf pickup, Greenworld, will be paid about $150,000 when the second collection of leaves is completed in the county.

If you would like to apply for a special permit to burn leaves, contact your local fire department. Some departments even have the application on their website. You need to apply for a permit two weeks before you plan to burn.

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