Piled high in debris and don't know what to do?
Rather than set yourself and possibly your neighbor's lawn on fire by trying to burn it away, it is much safer and less of a hassel if one waits for the cleanup crews to come by.
Though the burn ban is lifted for Fulton County, Salem Fire Chief Heath Everett said the burn ban is still on for the city. He said since the burn ban started, during the week of the ice storm, his department has responded to five fires involving people who were burning ice storm debris in their yards, and it got out of control.
Not only is burning a safety concern, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not prefer it because it can be a health hazard. "They (FEMA) want the debris picked up and hauled to an approved facility and chipped, because there's so much debris that burning in town would cause air quality standard troubles," Everett said.
The county lifted the burn ban. Though people can burn, Fulton County Judge Charles Willett said people should call either the Arkansas Forestry Department or the judge's office so county officials can monitor the number of people burning at any given time. "If they want to burn, that's fine, they just need to call the Forestry Department or my office so we can monitor it," Willett said. "We don't want 100 people burning at the same time." Willett said the reason for the monitoring is for air quality purposes.
Willett also said cleanup crews will also be going down all county roads. He said people can pile their debris next to the road and the crews will pick it up. "Every road the road grader goes down, the crews will go down," Willett said. However, Willett said, there is no specific time-frame as to where and when crews will go to any given location.
Though residents who live out in the country can burn, burning in city limits is dangerous. "We've got a bunch of people (in Salem) who have never burned," Everett said. "A lot of people don't burn. Some of us burn leaves every year, but a lot of people don't burn. So, we've got a lot of people who are not used to burning."
"What my concern is, we've got so much debris that people are going to pile it up either under a power line or close to the house, close to a shop or close to some tall grass, and they're going to set this fire and it's going to get out of control," Everett said. "The special problems in town versus out (in the country), in town, if you let your fire get out in your yard, it's only a few feet to another house or to other property. That's what our concern is, that people are going to get a bunch of debris and set it on fire, and it's not only going to endanger their property but the neighbor's property. You have way too many exposures in a close proximity to be having every yard in town having some kind of fire going."
There was one fire, Feb. 20, on Robert's Street, Everett said. In this fire, an ember got out in a field of Bermuda grass while someone was burning debris. The ember sparked another fire, which burnt down a dog house and nearly killed a dog. Salem Police Chief Albert Roork issued the person who was burning a citation for burning during a burn ban, according to Everett.
Now, the Salem Police Department and the Salem Fire Department are teaming up to patrol the city for those who are unlawfully burning, Everett said. According to Everett and Roork, unlawful burning is a class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or a year in jail.
"The burn ban will be lifted as soon as the city gets done with its debris removal," Everett said. "It's just too dangerous right now."
Burning can cause woes for more than just the person who set the fire. "I don't want to see somebody burning a pile of limbs in their yard, and the fire get out and burns their neighbor's house," Everett said. "That's something I don't want to see."
Everett called for Salem residents to have patience during the cleanup process. "We're all in the same boat, and people need to be patient," Everett said. "It's not something that's going to go away overnight. Even those that live out in the county need to be aware that the same thing can happen."