The sound of a crackling fire filling the crisp autumn air with its warmth is the epitome of the fall season for many people, but officials urge Clay County residents to see if their community has a burn ordinance in effect before striking a match this fall.
Brazil City Fire Chief Jim Smith said residents living within the city limits need to apply for a burn permit at City Hall.
"People need to have their name on the list before they strike a match," Chief Smith said. "The Brazil City burn ordinance has been on the books since 2002, and most people already know about it, so they really need to make the effort to get one. The whole process only takes a few minutes."
Smith explained that residents would be given a copy of the ordinance to read which states what materials can be burned and the size of the fire allowed. Afterward, the resident may ask any questions they have and then sign the required documents with the date and time they are planning to have a scheduled burn or a bonfire.
Smith said "the ordinance is there to protect neighbors" and the nearby homes within the neighborhood in case a fire should get out of control, or someone is burning less than desirable materials, like tires.
"Our belief is that, if you wouldn't roast a hot dog over the fire you started, then you shouldn't be burning anything at all," Smith said, adding that the permit also gives the department notice of areas where recreational burns are occurring, which could help avoid the embarrassing situation of sending out a fire truck to a family bonfire.
"We don't want to deprive families from having fun," Smith said. "It also saves the unnecessary wear and tear on department vehicles."
City firefighters are allowed to issue a citation to the resident if they are in violation of the terms of the permit by having too large of a fire or burning restricted materials.
Without a county burn ordinance, volunteer firefighters rely upon state regulations, which are vague, but do allow residents to have recreational fires.
"There are a number of regulations about what can be and can't be burned," President of the local Volunteer Fire Chief's Association Kevin Orme said, adding that people need to remember the to use common sense and remember basic fire safety when starting a recreational fire. "Basically, people need to remember to clear combustibles from the area, don't build the fire pit area too large that it can not be controlled, keep the fire pit away from structures and vehicles, do not use flammable liquids to start the fire and maintain a safe distance from the fire once it is lit."
Orme agrees with Smith about using department equipment unnecessarily, and urges all residents to contact officials about starting a controlled burn or a recreational fire.
"We would much rather county residents contact the Clay County Justice Center to report a bonfire that to have us take a fire truck to their house needlessly," he said.