Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Public comment on proposed burn permit system closes Friday

Residents have until 5 p.m. Friday, May 29, to submit comments to the Stillwater County Commissioners on the proposed burn permit system.
A special commissioner hearing will be held Monday, June 1, at 1:30 p.m.
As explained by Stillwater County Fire Warden Carol Arkell and Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger, the proposed system would involve an applicant purchasing a permit once a year for $8, then $5 for each year after.
Applicants would be given a permit number that would be activated through an automated system on the given day they want to burn. That automated system would tell the applicant whether or not burning is permitted on that day.
Conditions that could shut down burning on any given day would include red flag weather conditions and when current fires are burning, said Cowger.
The $8 fee is for maintenance of the software system that runs the burn permit program statewide. Cowger said that despite rumors, none of that money goes to Columbus or any fire department.
The purpose of the proposed system is to give authorities a way to shut-down controlled burns on hazardous days. In recent years, there have been controlled burns that have gotten out-of-control and resulted in massive fires, including the 2006 Saunders Fire that scorched 3,000 acres and claimed two homes.
The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) has spent approximately $15 million fighting wildland fires in Stillwater County in the past handful of years, according to Arkell. And that does not include what the county has paid.
The proposed system would also be accessible by dispatchers. This is important as currently, citizens who conduct controlled burns are asked call dispatch on a voluntary basis. This helps dispatchers know whether or not fire crews need to be sent to check on reports of smoke.
The permit system is operated in part by the state and is currently used by 13 counties.