Learn before you burn

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

While snow has covered much of the ground for several days, it’s a good time to sit back and think about the new &uot;burn laws&uot; affecting residential and business owners alike in the City of Suffolk.

Once the weather breaks, people will be looking at getting rid of fallen limbs and other debris resulting from the severe weather, but you must have a permit from the Fire Prevention Bureau before setting that fire.

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Captain Jim Judkins, Suffolk’s Emergency Management Coordinator, said for as long as he remembers, people in the city have been burning just about anything and everything. Under the city’s new codes, that will change.

&uot;We are trying to bring about a change, basically for the safety of all our citizens,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;You may recall that several weeks ago a lady was severely burned while trying to burn trash in her yard. Also, in the past 12 months, we’ve responded to more than 200 calls where people are complaining about their neighbors burning trash. Everyone must get along and we all have to live together so we’re trying to develop a plan satisfactory to everybody. Unfortunately, everybody is not going to like it.&uot;

Judkins added that another reason the burn codes are changing is to lessen the number of fires that escape to cause damage to property. The captain said the Fire Prevention Bureau wants the public to know that if a fire escapes and causes damage, the person burning the rubbish no matter the type is responsible for suppression costs.

Under the new burn codes, no one in the city is allowed to burn anything without a commercial or residential permit.

&uot;When they call our office and ask for a permit, we call upon the person to do the burning and give them a check sheet,&uot; Judkins explained. &uot;If they meet the specified criteria, such as the burn should be at least 300-feet from any structure, then we can issue the permit. Of course, there are other factors involved such as is the person doing the burn physically capable of controlling the fire and are there water hoses near enough to suppress it should the need arise. We look at several factors.&uot;

Judkins said another question on the check sheet is whether there is regularly scheduled private or public collection of refuse in the area where the proposed burn would take place.

&uot;Like tree limbs, for instance,&uot; he added. &uot;In the city, we have collections, but in rural areas they have no collection of refuse like that. So we do try to look at all the factors involved and make a sound judgment on the burn site.&uot;

Judkins did say that each individual case, or request for a burn permit, will be considered on its own merits including the size of the rubbish pile.

&uot;We can’t say every case will go by the letter of the law because there are so many factors that come into play,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;The inspector will look at each individual case. Most importantly, you must have a permit before doing any open air burning in Suffolk.&uot;

For more information on the new burn codes or how to obtain a permit, call Capt. Judkins at 923-2110.