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You may need to quench that burning desire

By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, April 11, 2019

Have a pile of old branches in the yard you’d like to burn?

Use caution, because the city’s rules are, well, confusing. And they might conflict with the Oregon Department of Forestry’s rules, which might conflict with the Department of Environmental Quality’s rules.

Problems arose last month when a contractor began burning large piles of alder that had been cleared from property off Alternate Highway 101. The large hot fires created an inversion layer on the overcast day, which made the unseasoned wood give off plumes of heavy smoke that wafted through the south part of town.

And, because it was the weekend, no one answered nonemergency phone calls to the Warrenton Fire Department.

So city commissioners took the brunt of it.

“There were quite a few phone calls,” Mayor Henry Balensifer said at the March 12 commission meeting. “We do have a legal right to declare a public health issue.”

Commissioner Mark Baldwin, who also got phone calls, wondered about how many violations the contractor was guilty.

Many, according to Fire Chief Tim Demers. After the meeting, he spoke with both state agencies and reviewed city guidelines. He learned the contractor violated city and state rules, but also found many inconsistencies in the law, he told commissioners at their March 26 meeting.

Demers described phone calls he placed to various agencies under the guise of seeking information about burning on his own property. The answers were all different and confusing.

Commissioners decided to revise and add clarity to the city’s burn permit rules, which will come back to the commission at a future meeting.

Proposed guidelines include allowing no commercial or slash burning within city limits and a limit on the size of debris piles to 10-feet by 10-feet by 4-feet.


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