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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

Linn County firefighters gear up as burning season begins

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

Firefighters from Mound City and Centerville extinguish a blaze in an inoperable truck on Sunday near Kansas Highway 7 and 1525 Road. Firefighters at the scene included, from left, John Morse, Becky Hegwald, Fire Chief Randy Hegwald, and Craig Cox. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

Every year, the warm days of March bring with them open burning across Linn County. Whether farmers are practicing prescribed burning to CRP ground or renewing pastureland or landowners are clearing out ditches and unsightly brush piles, the result is the same.

Columns of smoke rise into the air across the county, particularly on weekends when landowners have more time to get outside.

The downside is that sometimes those fires get away from people who are trying to control the fire. It's not uncommon for the county's 10 stations to be busy much of the weekend during the burning season.

In a fire callout on Sunday, March 20, along Kansas Highway 7, two fire departments responded to a controlled burn that inadvertently spread to a nearby lot with old equipment.

"It was a controlled burn that got away from the owner and accidentally spread to the vehicles," said Linn County Fire Chief Randy Hegwald.

Those who are doing controlled burning in the county are required to notify the county by calling in to the Linn County Sheriff's Office at (913) 795-2665 before the burn.

Hegwald said that currently there are no fines levied for not notifying the county of planned burning, however, the permitting and fine system is being looked at, and changes in that system could be coming.

On Monday, Hegwald received permission from the Linn County Commission to advertise for an assistant fire chief and maintenance technician.

Hegwald broached the subject with commissioners with a job description that said that the assistant fire chief would do maintenance on the trucks, run fire scenes, and be certified to inspect and recharge fire extinguishers.

Hegwald told the commissioners that the county fire board also asked him to add that if the assistant chief did not stay for at least one year, that person would be required to reimburse the county for any training that they received.

The fire chief said he thought certifying the assistant would save the county money rather than hiring a company to recharge all of the county’s fire extinguishers. He added that the fire department’s fire extinguishers had not been recharged recently.

Hegwald told the commissioners that the last time they talked about this at the commission meeting, he had received numerous calls from residents and businesses asking to have their fire extinguishers recharged.

He said the equipment for recharging the extinguishers was not costly.

Under the past fire chief, there was a deputy fire chief who had different duties than this position calls for. Hegwald said this position would take on a lot more maintenance.

Hegwald reported that there had been nine incidents in the last seven days, bringing the yearly total up to 89. The incidents the past week were three motor vehicle accidents with no injuries, one motor vehicle accident with injury, one unauthorized burning, one building fire, one grass fire, one outside rubbish fire, and one medical assist.

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