With local residents cleaning in and around the house this spring, a Wapakoneta administrator warns against disposing of yard waste and other debris in a fire and provided tips when enjoying an outdoor flame.
The Wapakoneta Fire Department has received a few calls this spring regarding open burning, Fire Chief Kendall Krites said. He noted most fire departments receive more calls in the spring and fall regarding people sitting out in front of a fire or burning things on their property in the city.
“There is a city ordinance and it states a person cannot burn any waste material and any open burning must be done in a fire ring or a container using clean, dry, stackable material as the burning material,” Krites told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “Through the years, somehow the thought has gotten out there that they need to be cooking in order to have a fire and as long as they have some hot dogs out there when the fire department shows up then they are fine. It does not make any difference to us.”
Krites said most people are responsive to the requirements and once they are issued a warning and explained the reasons for the ordinance they typically comply. He encouraged people who plan to have an outdoor fire to call the fire station ahead of time and explain their plans so firefighters are aware if a neighbor calls.
According to a city ordinance, residents are allowed to make fires without a permit if a fire is made inside an approved container and is 15 feet or more from a structure. All combustible materials also should be removed from the site before a fire is built. The minimum distance from a structure should be 25 feet. Krites advised the pile size must be 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height.
“With a backyard fire, someone has to be with it at all times — you just can’t light a campfire and walk away,” Krites said. “It must be monitored.
“The same rules apply regarding burning materials if you have a special burning vessel like a chiminea or other burning container,” he said. “Even if you are burning a legal fire and it creates a noxious odor or smoke that either impedes traffic on a roadway or irritates a neighbor then you may be asked to discontinuing the burning.”
Krites agrees with St. Marys Fire Chief Jeff Weaver on opening burning guidelines. They agree people with a fire should have some water source, such as a garden hose, or a fire extinguisher handy to extinguish the blaze.
“If there is going to be a fire, we suggest that there be some adult supervision,” Krites said. “The biggest problem we have is with people building a fire at night and then as the night goes on they build it too large. This creates problems because of the size of the blaze and the dangers associated with that.”
On windy days, Weaver discouraged even igniting a fire.
“It’s very dangerous on windy days to have a fire,” Weaver said, with Krites in agreement. “Embers can blow anywhere and not necessarily just feet, but yards away and start a fire. If it’s windy, I wouldn’t recommend having one.”
Recalling the acceptable situations for a fire, Krites explained the ordinance permits a fire for religious purposes, warmth or for pleasure but the fire must be appropriate for the occasion. A person must obtain a permit for a bonfire.
According to state code, Krites said a bonfire must be at least 50 feet from a structure or combustible material unless the fire is contained in a barbecue pit. Conditions which could cause a fire to spread within 50 feet of a structure shall be eliminated prior to ignition.
Krites noted Wapakoneta City Schools is issued a permit for the bonfire during homecoming week. Firefighters and a pumper remain at the scene to help ensure the safety of the participants.
Even with a bonfire permit, an individual cannot burn yard waste and other debris in the blaze.