The ongoing burn ban has been misunderstood at best or ignored at worst in the past few weeks.
That pretty much summed up the attitude by Spokane Valley Fire Chief Bryan Collins at last Monday’s board of commissioners meeting.
“It’s a serious issue,” Collins said. “We as a staff need to figure out some different ways to get our message out than we did this year.”
The hot, dry conditions that have been prevalent since early summer forced unincorporated Spokane County and the cities of Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and Millwood to enact a burn ban July 22. The restriction will continue until further notice.
Still, there have been incidents of backyard fires and campfires starting brushfires, and even one incident of a home owner starting a blaze in a stump to wipe out a beehive.
The disconnect, fire officials have theorized, is that some types of burning are still legal. It’s OK, for example, to use barbecues, portable outdoor fireplaces or similar devices provided they have some kind of spark arrester and chimney. Only approved fuel like clean and dry firewood, briquettes, propane and natural gas can be used. And, of course, weather conditions must be appropriate.
While print and television media have reported on the ban – and further information can be found at spokanevalleyfire.com – Collins suggested that maybe other outlets, possibly social media over the Internet, could be utilized in the future.
Board Chairman Kolby Hanson said that maybe some folks are simply confused. Unless there is some sort of visual aid, it’s often not clear what type of fire is banned and what isn’t.
“With pictures of what’s approved and not approved, people can get a visual,” he said.
Approved fires must be attended by an adult at all times, and approved fire-extinguishing equipment, such as a hose, must be on hand and ready to use. There also must be at least 15 feet of clearance from structures.
A person guilty of unauthorized burning can $1,000 and/or up to 90 days in jail.