Douglas County commissioners unanimously approved the first reading of new burning restrictions Thursday to double the number of rules and add new classifications.
The ordinance also establishes enforcement and penalty provisions for violation of the burn code.
“The procedure is basically the same,” said Capt. Terry Taylor, inspector/investigator for East Fork Fire and Paramedic districts. “We may have different categories, but you’re still going to have call to determine if it’s a burn or no-burn day.”
Taylor said the ordinance reflects the changes in fire incidents that have occurred over the past 25 years.
Open burn permits will be broken down into nearly a dozen different types, including large agricultural for parcels more than 25 acres, agricultural for 10-25-acre operations, agricultural cooperator, ditch weed abatement, noxious weed abatement, seasonal open burning, ceremonial, recreational, special occurrence, governmental and emergency purpose.
“As we spread out the categories, we’re hopeful to be able to identify what the threat is,” Taylor said.
Permits haven’t been required in the past, though residents have been required to post rules for burning at their burn sites, and to call the fire district to find out if burning is permitted on a given day.
Nate Leising, representing the Carson Valley Agriculture Association, thanked Taylor, Chief Tod Carlini, Deputy Chief Steve Eisele and Commissioner Barry Penzel for working with the organization to create the ordinance.
“I want to thank you for all the work done correcting the problems. We’re in the middle of getting a workable solution. The ag association voted on the changes and were unanimous in their support,” Leising said.
He supported a requirement that the person responsible for the fire be in attendance at the burn, and that the permittee be charged if the fire gets out of control and the district has to respond.
“That person needs to maintain control of that fire and equipment,” Leising said. “I’d sure expect a bill. I’d rather see responders out on medical calls and the things they do best than having to come put out a fire I let out of control. If it escapes my control, I’m happy to pay for it.”
Eisele said a property owner on Mottsville Lane was receiving an invoice of $6,000-8,000 for a recent burn which got out of control.
Under the new code, firefighters will be able to enter private property to investigate a fire and determine if a permit has been issued. They will be able to extinguish a fire and can pursue reimbursement through the District Attorney’s Office for any costs.
“After last year’s large TRE fire, we decided to change our enforcement tactics a little bit,” Eisele said.
“If we come out, and issue a stop order, we’re going to put out your fire before we leave,” Taylor said. “That upsets some people because they might be half way through what they were trying to accomplish, but we’re going to put out your fire.”
Eisele said the district worked hard to maintain the burn permit process to protect the county’s defensible space.