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High winds elevate grass fire concerns

Published: Friday, March 21, 2014 10:53 a.m. CDT

As outdoor spring cleaning begins and people burn off dead vegetation to get ready for the growing season, grass fires become a focal point for the Creston Fire Department.

“One of the biggest things we find — and what we are nervous about going into today — are people that burnt on a nice day (Thursday), but it didn’t completely go out,” said Creston Fire Chief Todd Jackson. “People are not always looking far enough in advance for the days that are windy after they burn.”

The National Weather Service forecast for Union County is a high of 58 degrees with winds out of the northwest at 10 to 20 mph. Gusts could reach more than 30 mph.

There are no burn bans in Creston or Union County, but there are regulations to follow before clearing dead vegetation.

In Creston city limits the fire must be contained to a burn barrel with a screen over the top to prevent any sparks from leaving the barrel.

Both in town and rural burns need to be natural vegetation. Burning material such as tires is not allowed.

“People don’t anticipate the energy that is generated by the grass fire they start,” Jackson said. “They think they can control it and it quickly gets away from them.”

Jackson said the dry, dead vegetation and the lack of moisture in the ground increases the risk of grass fires getting out of hand.

Before burning, he recommends starting away from any buildings, having a water source available and tools to help control the direction of the fire.

“Call the fire department or dispatch center if you are going to do a controlled burn,” Jackson said. “One of the things we get are a lot of false calls where people are watching the fire, but someone driving by sees smoke ... that way we don’t have to send our resources out for a controlled fire.”

Other guidelines Jackson said to do during burns are to never leave the fire unattended, continually check the weather forecast and to call in for help early.

“Call early versus later,” Jackson said. “If it is heading a direction you don’t want and it is going at a speed or intensity you didn’t expect, call.”

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