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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

County fire chief seeks permit system for field, crop burning

Updated: Mar 4, 2023

MOUND CITY – Linn County Fire Chief Randy Hegwald wants tighter control on open burning, including the power to levy fines against those who set fields on fire when a burn ban is in place.

Hegwald met with the Linn County Commissioners on Monday, Feb. 6, to discuss revamping burning regulations in Linn County.

First, Hegwald wanted to remind people in the county to call the sheriff’s dispatch office to see if there is a burn ban and to register that they are burning.

Hegwald also pointed out that cities are not covered under the county’s burn ban and it is up to city officials to make regulations about burning. He said that some cities did follow county guidelines.

Commissioner Chair Danny McCullough asked Hegwald who city residents should call since city offices are not open on weekends. Hegwald said it was up to the cities to set up their guidelines, but if no one was available to report to, people could call the county dispatcher to have their city law and fire officials notified.

Hegwald said that he would like to approach Linn County’s burn ban criteria and revamp the system.

McCullough asked Hegwald what he based the decision of having a burn ban on. McCullough said that he thought the previous fire chief based it of the regulations at the state wildlife refuge.

Hegwald said that he based his decision of the national weather service, which bases its decision on relative humidity and wind speeds.

Hegwald said that the wind speeds were his biggest concern, more than anything, and that is what he usually bases his decision on.

“My concerns are that we are issuing the burn ban but there are instances that sometimes it may be alright for that person to burn,” said Hegwald. “I’d like to look into a permit system.”

The permit system would require that anyone who is planning on burning for the year sign up with contact information so the county can contact them. Hegwald told the commissioners that this would make the landowner liable for fire department costs if they burned during a ban or without reporting their plan.

Hegwald told the commissioners that Linn County had a lot of landowners who did not live in the county. Under Hegwald’s proposal, if they did not register their burn and just threw down a match, the landowners would be liable for the costs to put out that fire.

McCullough asked what happened presently when this happened. County Counselor Gary Thompson said they were cited by the county and taken to codes court.

Commissioner Jim Johnson said that there are days that a rancher or farmer sets up a day and has all of his help set up to control the fire and then it turns out to be a burn ban.

Commission Jason Hightower said that burn bans should still be observed for protecting the public even if a rancher had his plans disrupted.

“Even if it is all farm ground around it?” asked Johnson.

Hightower asked who was going to make the determination about the land surrounding the area. The bigger issue is not having wild fires or having things get out of control.

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