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Officials remind landowners to stay safe

By Maura Wery

With the spring burn season approaching, the Riley County Emergency Management team wants to remind property owners to get a burn permit before starting controlled burns on their land.

Riley County Emergency Management Director Pat Collins and Emergency Management Coordinator Laurie Harrison said that a burn permit is required for any kind of burning in Riley County. And in April, all burning is prohibited except burning for the purpose of pasture management.

Collins said that the first week of April is usually a big week for burning, because ranchers and cattlemen are trying to get their grasses green and ready for cattle in May.

Collins said that the permits are an important part of controlling the different burns in the county.

“We don’t want burn bans,” Collins said. “So we have the permit system so every time you control burn you call in. Then we know who is burning, what is burning and who is liable for the damage if a fire gets out of control.”

Harrison said that the burn permits are easy to obtain. Apply in person at the emergency management office at 115 N. Fourth St.; call the office at (785) 537-6333 to have the application mailed or faxed; or complete the application online at Turnaround time varies. In the office or online it takes 5 to 10 minutes,  and by mail it takes one to two weeks. The key, Collins said, is to get it done early.

“If you want to burn over the weekend, don’t come in on Friday to get a permit,” Collins said.

Collins said that those who held burn permits the previous year will get a renewed permit, but those who haven’t burned in a few years will need to apply again for a permit.

Once a permit is obtained, those burning must call the number listed on the permit to tell the authorities of their plans. Collins said that this tells the Riley County Police Department of the control burn and allows Emergency Management to tell burners about bad weather conditions or to caution them against burning.

Collins said that even when the conditions are right for burning landowners should still take caution.

“Weather conditions are a big thing,” Collins said. “Wind shifts can become a huge safety issue.”

He also said that burners should contact their neighbors and try to burn with them. Collins suggests having enough help to put out an out-of-control fire and having a water source — with a back-up — close by.

Those caught burning without a permit can get into quite a bit of legal trouble.

“It’s a ticketable offense,” Harrison said. Collins said offenders would be charged with a misdemeanor.

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