Conditions prime for grass fires, city fire marshal warns public

For many Big Spring residents, the arrival of spring translates into plenty of yard and lawn work, including mowing, pruning trees and bushes and other activities to prepare for the summer season.However, many residents will be faced with the prospect of what to do with the leftover trimmings and other waste, a problem which can quickly translate into dangerous situations and work for local firefighters, according to Big Spring Fire Marshall Carl Condray.“We just want to remind our citizens as spring rolls around, so does the increased risk of grass and wildfires,” Condray said. “We want to take the time to urge an increased level of caution from our citizens when participating in outdoor activities.“Many people are pruning their trees and clearing overgrowth of dead grass and weeds during this time of year. The Big Spring Fire Department gets an increased number of calls wanting to know if it is OK to burn this waste within the city limits, and the answer is no. This is regardless of whether or not Howard County is under a current burn ban. Open burning and the burning of pruned tree limbs and parts is a violation of the city fire code.”According to Condray, lawn and yard waste should be dropped off at the local composting facility, located at the municipal landfill.“The landfill has a compost site to receive these types of yard waste and all area residents are encouraged to use the facility,” Condray said. “Basically, it is against city code to kindle or maintain an open fire on any public street, alley, road or other public or private ground within the city of Big Spring without a permit from the Fire Marshal’s Office. This includes private residences, such as your backyard, as well. Recreational fires, such as campfires, are not exempt from these restrictions, either.”Condray said chiminea-style outdoor fireplaces are allowed in certain areas, however, residents utilizing these types of fireplaces must rigorously adhere to safety rules.“Fires in outdoor fireplaces, such as the 'chiminea' style, are allowed in one and two family properties as long as they are at least 15 feet away from a structure, which includes fences or combustible materials,” Condray said. “These devices will need to have screens on the chimney and the hearth or front opening to prevent sparks from escaping and starting fires. These fires must be constantly attended and a suitable method of extinguishment must be present at all times until the fire is completely extinguished."Condray said area residents who choose to smoke must also be careful to follow safety rules described in the city's Code of Ordinances.“For our area drivers and pedestrians, it is against the law to discard matches and smoking materials from your person or vehicles, as well as in any manner where they could start a fire,” Condray said. “This includes on our streets, alleys and all public right of ways. In addition to the local fire codes, many of the fires mentioned are subject to regulations enforced by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).”Condray said those who decide to ignore local codes and laws not only run the risk of starting a fire or damaging property, they could also find themselves on the receiving end of a rather expensive citation.“All of these codes are to ensure the safety of our community and avoid accidental ignitions,” he said. “Fines for violations of the fire code can range up to $2,000 per incident. Please support the efforts of your local firefighters and law enforcement to keep Big Spring and Howard County safe from the devastation of wildfires. Let’s all do our part.”For more information on city fire codes and other regulations, contact Condray at 432-264-2305.