Grass fires down in last five years

By The Mercury

WESTMORELAND – The number of grass fires in Pottawatomie County has decreased dramatically in the five years since the county instituted a permitting system for burning pastures.

Before the county implemented the system in 2009, there were an average of 398 grass fires per year, fire supervisor Bruce Brazzle told Pott County Commissioners Monday.

In the five years since, the average number of grass fires has dropped to 231 annually.

The reduction in grass fires has also resulted in a cost savings to rural fire departments under the county’s umbrella, Brazzle said.

Using national cost figures for fuel and wear-and-tear on equipment, Brazzle estimated rural fire departments have saved anywhere from $81,500 to $163,000 since the burn permit system was implemented in 2009.

“That’s a good savings and it’s a good program,” Brazzle said. “We’ll keep it up.”

In the first year, 940 burn permits were issued to Pottawatomie County landowners. Today there are 1,156 permits issued, Brazzle said.

Brazzle also updated commissioners on new EMS buildings at Onaga and Westmoreland and reviewed longterm needs of rural departments. 

The Olsburg and Havensville departments are in need of new tanker trucks and the Wheaton and Olsburg departments need new fire stations, Brazzle said.

Although the communities have had discussions on new stations, no time line has been established, he said. 

In other business Monday:


• Lois Schlegel, county appraiser, recognized two members of her office staff –– Cindy Collins and Robin Knoblauch –– for recently obtaining Registered Mass Appraiser certification.

“I’m proud of both of them,” Schlegel told commissioners. “Both of them have been great assets to our office. It takes a lot of education to get to that point (RMA certification). God forbid, if something happened to me tomorrow, I know these girls could run that office and get the job done.”

Collins and Knoblauch will receive their RMA certificates and pins at the annual conference of county appraisers this June at Lawrence.

Schlegel also reported that county property sales for 2013 have exceeded last year’s total.

With 52 sales in November, the county reached 699 sales for the year, surpassing the 671 sales for all of 2012.

“It just keeps on coming,” Schlegel said. “This year will probably be one of our better years, along with 2006 and 2007.”

Schlegel also said she was anxious to see new construction figures for 2013. “I’m sure it will be one of our better years,” she said.


• Chris Trudo, emergency management director, said all tornado sirens in the county were operable during the most recent test December 2.

Trudo said two more sirens will soon be installed in the county by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism –– one near Spillway Marina at Tuttle Creek and one in Randolph State Park west of Olsburg.

The KDWP&T will handle maintenance of the new sirens, he said.

• County attorney Sherri Schuck, and office manager Andrea Karnes said the number of case filings for November were similar to the same time last year.

Case filings for November included 25 criminal, 40 traffic, five juvenile offender, and three child-in-need-of-care.

There were no filings for fish-and-game or care-and-treatment violations, they said.


• The commission opened bids for the official county newspaper for 2014, with a possible two-year renewal.

Bids were submitted by The St. Marys Star and The Wamego Times. The commission is expected to make a decision on the official newspaper at its December 30 meeting.

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