McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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March 16, 2014

Local burning FYI

The things you should know before lighting a burn pile or a controlled fire

McALESTER — Before setting spark to a controlled burn, there are a few embers of light to shed on area laws, ordinances and the responsibilities of property owners.

McAlester Fire Chief Brett Brewer said all open burning in McAlester’s city limits is illegal unless the city has issued a permit for the burn.

Brewer said permits may be obtained to burn natural vegetation such as brush and undergrowth. Permits are issued at the city’s utilities office at McAlester City Hall.

Brewer said more information about burning within city limits — along with ordinances — can be found at www.cityofmcalester.com. Click on the “departments” tab, and then select “fire” from the drop-down menu.

According to the website, permits are issued for small and large burns that are in “strict compliance with the directions given with granting of the permit.” Small burn permits — for a burn pile no larger than six feet by six feet and no higher than four feet — are $25.

Once a permit has been paid, the burn site must pass an inspection by the McAlester Fire Department before a burn permit is granted.

City code say that burning trash, or “refuse” is illegal and is prohibited for the protection of property and health.

For burning outside of city limits, McAlester/Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management Deputy Director Lois Lupardis says there is much to know about burning.

Lupardis said there are responsibilities and possible liabilities that property owners should know about before starting lighting a controlled —or a “prescribed” — burn.

Lupardis said the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture provides a copy of its guidelines, state law and its burning notification plan at www.forestry.ok.gov and anyone planning to burn should read it and become familiar with it first.

The state forestry service plan says there is a vast difference between a prescribed burn and a wildfire.

“Prescribed burns are conducted on a designated area under specific conditions for a defined objective, and are extinguished,” the plan reads, in part. “A wildfire is a fire that is out of control.”

Lupardis said property owners conducting a prescribed burn who cause damage or injury as a result of accident or negligence will be held liable.

Those wishing to burn on private property outside city limits should notify their local fire department, she said.

Meanwhile, she said those wanting to burn within protected forestry  areas should also notify the forestry service office in Wilburton by calling 918-465-2082.

She said it is also very important to check current conditions by visiting calling the local fire department, forestry service or visiting okfire.mesonet.org before burning.

“If there is an emergency, always call 911,” OEM Director Kevin Enloe said.

Contact MJ Brickey at mjbrickey@journalist.com.

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