Burning issue sets off alarm
More than a dozen rekindled grass fires this week ought to fuel efforts to make agricultural burning a bit more structured than what seems to be a do-whatever-you-want system, as fickle as a flickering flame.
Farmers and ranchers insist they need to set fires from time to time. Even environmentalists tend to agree that fires long have been part of nature’s way of keeping grazing land healthy and avoiding disruptive or costly options on cropland.
The problem is accountability. Those starting field fires need to do more than let a sheriff’s dispatcher know a few minutes in advance. And they certainly need to accept full financial and personal responsibility by proving they have insurance and are willing to pay stiff fines if they ignore rules and burn without notification, when dispatchers tell them they shouldn’t, or for reasons that are merely convenient, not agriculturally necessary.
Basically, they need to guarantee that they will remain completely vigilant — even days later — by planning to closely monitor hot spots that might rekindle when dry winds are forecasted and to put off any burns when such weather seems likely.
No one likes more paperwork, but requiring a signed and approved application, acknowledging insurance, monitoring efforts, and suitability of the weather, might lead to a lot fewer calls to firefighters to control what land owners neglected to.
Firefighters may be heroes, but they’re also humans. Fewer and fewer are likely to volunteer for the dirty, dangerous, and definitely underappreciated community service they provide if they must constantly be taken away from jobs, sleep, or family to protect us from those who didn’t adequately consider or follow through with their plans for controlled burns.
— ERIC MEYER