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Jordan Allen from the Richland Township Volunteer Fire Department douses the scene of a grass fire on County Road 700 North east of Indiana 9 in Madison County Ind. on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. Despite dry conditions County Commissioners decided against enacting a burn ban during a meeting on Tuesday. (AP photo/The Herald Bulletin, Don Knight)
Bartholomew County fire officials have put a burn ban into effect after 25 grass fires in the past 45 days.
Bartholomew is among 41 counties statewide with such a prohibition during a drought expected to last at least through Tuesday, according to weather forecasters.
“Even a car’s catalytic converter could very well set high grass on fire,” said Matt Noblitt, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Bartholomew County area had received only four-tenths of an inch of rain this month, far below the normal 2.58 inches, according to accuweather.com, a private forecasting company.
Bartholomew County Fire Chiefs Association President Ed Johnson issued the order Wednesday afternoon. Bartholomew County Commissioners will discuss the matter Monday and possibly issue their own order affirming the first measure, Paul Franke said.
“In the past we have been quick to follow the lead of the fire chiefs,” commission Chairman Larry Kleinhenz said. “They’re the experts, and we’re supportive of what they’ve done.”
The ban will be in effect indefinitely, according to Ed Reuter, director of the Bartholomew County 911 Center.
“Now, just because we get some rain in the next few days doesn’t mean the ban automatically will be lifted,” Reuter said. “The question still will be, ‘Has there been enough rain?’”
Reuter said the 911 center gets five to 10 calls per day
notifying officials that someone, such as a farmer clearing a fence row, is doing a controlled burn. Those are out for now, according to Reuter.
Last week, one of the township fire departments was out several times in one day because of small grass fires ignited by fireworks, Reuter said.
Noblitt said that, for now, firefighters simply are arriving at scenes of small grass fires and “asking people to use their head.”
Reuter said the “biggest penalty” to violating the ban could be “the destruction or loss of their property or their neighbor’s property to a fire.”
Though the current order is not an explicit fireworks ban, Noblitt said firefighters are asking people not to set off fireworks right now.
Decatur County Commissioners issued a burn ban Thursday and will review the decision July 2.
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