CLINTON — Local fire officials are reminding area residents of the burning ordinances of Clinton County as the area approaches the fall burning season.

The Clinton County Firemen’s Association met last month in Andover for its regular monthly meeting. Members noted burning in the county has become lax in regard to following county and city burn ordinances.

According to the Clinton County Burn Ordinance, all open burn fires must be conducted in accordance with all federal and state regulations and must be attended by an adult until it is extinguished. Residents cannot burn, “disaster rubbish,” “trees and tree trimmings,” “landscape waste” and “agricultural structures” or “prairies, pastures, fields, yards or road ditches” without first notifying the Clinton County Communications Center of the name of the person responsible for the burn, their telephone number, the specific location of the burn and the date and time of the open burn for those types of waste.

The county ordinance also prohibits conducting or permitting open burning on public property without prior authorization of the public entity responsible for its control and care. Anyone violating the ordinance can be found guilty of a simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or 30 days in jail per occurrence, as well as be made to pay restitution to any responding fire department for any and all costs incurred for responding to the illegal burn call.

Clinton Fire Marshal Mike Brown said instances such as burning large piles of trees and other debris at a construction site have led to many of the recent complaints within the county. He advised it is a state requirement that when property owners want to burn a large pile of construction debris, the fire must occur in a pit and a blower must be utilized to accelerate the burn.

“When they do that, a huge fire will burn clean and it will burn well,” Brown said.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, large burns are permitted at least one-quarter mile from any building other than the land owner’s property. A permit fee is charged to hold a large burn. The DNR has placed a temporary burn ban on those large fires due to air quality concerns. As the situation is in limbo, no large fires are being allowed, including those at the city landfill.

In Clinton and Camanche, fires are limited to occur between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. An open fire cannot be located less than 50 feet from any structure or property line and a fire in an approved waste burner must be located more than 15 feet away from any structure and more than five feet from any property line.

Fires within the city may consist of leaves, trees or anything grown on the property and waste paper, excluding roofing paper and/or tarpaper. Piles for burning must be kept small. If the fire department feels the fire is too large and could create a hazard to nearby buildings or property, the fire will be extinguished. Open fires must be constantly attended by a competent person until it is extinguished and that person must have a garden hose connected to a water supply or other fire extinguishing equipment available for use.

It is illegal to burn on city streets, alleys or in the city right-of-way. In addition, the fire marshal or fire chief may prohibit all bonfires when atmospheric conditions or local circumstances make such fires hazardous. A wood bonfire or campfire for recreation use is not prohibited, provided that the fire does not pose a danger to buildings or properties.

In Clinton, ordinance violators are subject to $100 fine plus court costs. In Camanche, anyone violating the ordinance can receive a fine of $25 plus $50 court costs for the first offense, a $50 fine for the second offense resulting in a total penalty of $100, and a $100 fine for the third offense for a total cost of $150.

Brown said the Clinton Fire Department received over 100 illegal burn calls last year. He said the calls generally are evenly spread between reports of burning outside of the appropriate hours and people burning items that are not allowed. He noted that while the department does not patrol in search of illegal burns, firefighters will respond to a call. Citizens calling to report an illegal burn must call the Clinton County Law Center Communications at 242-9211, not the fire department, and should be prepared to leave their name, address and phone number.

In DeWitt, the city code of ordinances includes an open burning restriction. The ordinance states it is unlawful to burn garbage, rubbish or yard waste in the city limits except as provided by the rules and regulations of the State Environmental Protection Commission. The code states burning of yard wastes is allowed, but no substances other than yard waste. The ordinance details that burning must be supervised and occur between 8 a.m. and sunset. Burning is not allowed on parking areas or on city streets or alleys and may not occur if wind speeds exceed 10 miles per hour. The burning of yard waste must stop immediately if directed by the city fire or police department.

DeWitt Fire Chief John Burken said the fire department is not called out often for reports of burning violations. He said the calls have reduced from 15 years ago when the city created a compost facility. City Clerk Cathie Benthin said the city is in the process of developing a specific burning ordinance.

Any resident of Clinton County who is unclear about burning regulations in their area should contact their local fire department or Clinton County Communications at 242-9211.

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