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Fire crews respond to over 50 grass fires in one week

“If you look out there today there’s been good breeze all day you know, a 15 mile an hour breeze. That’s all it needs to get going is the breeze and the dead brush,” said Chief Brian Kazmierzak with Penn Township Fire.

Fields of smoke continue to pop up across St. Joseph County. Fire crews say they’ve had to respond to more than 50 grass, brush, and woods fires in the last 7 days alone.

“Right now everything is dead from the winter, everything is very dry even though you think that the snow just melted but everything on top is very dry and dead,” said Kazmierzak.

When I was speaking with fire officials over the phone, one grass fire broke out at that moment. Since then, at least 3 more broke out Sunday across the county. But according to fire officials, no one should be burning yet.

“Saint Joseph County has a burn ordinance. It does not allow open burning within 200 feet from any house, business, any building,” said Kazmierzak.

Two times a year, during spring and fall, burning is allowed, but the county has yet to announce those dates.

“So far this year it has not been set. It’s usually when everything greens up and they feel that they can burn safely,” said Kazmierzak.

Kazmierzak says once those dates are dropped, make sure to pay attention before burning.

“The biggest thing is use common sense. If you’re going to burn small piles, have a garden hose or some type of water supply nearby, make sure it’s not windy out. And If you’re burning anything than small piles, then you need to get a burn permit from your fire department and the health department,” said Kazmierzak.

The only materials allowed for burning are natural materials, so grass or fallen wood. You cannot burn sawn lumber, finished lumber, treated lumber, trash, or carpet. If you are caught burning right now without a permit you can be fined 50 dollars the first time.

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