The Douglas County Fire Chiefs Association and Douglas County Emergency Management reviewed and recommended updates to the county code that regulates open burning for the unincorporated areas of Douglas County. The updates to the county code, Home Rule Resolution 23-11-3, were approved Wednesday, Nov. 29, by the Board of County Commissioners.
The revised resolution, which was last updated in 2017, does not change when, where, or how people can burn outdoors. Instead, it puts state and county regulations into one policy that now has definitions for open burning on agricultural and residential land as well as for recreational uses. It also describes enforcement and penalties for those who violate the regulations.
“The new policy provides a one-stop shop for getting information, and it provides more clarity. We hope the public finds it easier to understand and navigate,” Emergency Management Director Robert Bieniecki said.
The revisions reflect questions from the public and feedback from firefighters and community members. They were made in consultation with staff from the following county departments: Emergency Communications Center, GIS, Information Technology, District Attorney’s Office, and Zoning and Codes.
The revised policy defines open burning as:
...the burning of unwanted materials such as paper, trees, brush, leaves, grass, and other debris, where smoke and other emissions are released directly into the air without passing through a chimney or a stack. Open burning also includes incineration devices that do not control the combustion of air to maintain an adequate temperature and do not provide sufficient time for complete combustion.
The purpose of the regulations is to protect the health and safety of the public.
In 2022, Douglas County Consolidated Fire District No. 1 responded to 308 grass fires in Douglas County. LDCFM reports show a total of 66 responses to wildland-like fires last year in the county and 37 responses so far this year. Wildland-like fires are fires involving natural vegetation, forest, woods, brush and/or grass.
According to the Kansas State Fire Marshal, Kansas fire departments responded in 2021 to about 5,000 vegetation-related fires that caused two fatalities, injured 20 people, burned over 185,000 acres and damaged more than 40 buildings. Over 900 of the fires required jurisdictions to seek mutual-aid assistance to bring them under control.
According to fire officials, nearly 95 percent of all wildfires result from the activity of people and, therefore, a significant number could be prevented through taking proper actions towards fire safety.
Under the current and revised policy, Douglas County residents need to call the burn hotline at 785-832-5394 before igniting any burns. The county burn line is updated every morning by 8 a.m. and will notify residents if burning is authorized for the day. If burning is authorized, residents must log their name, contact phone number, location of burn and material being burned. Soon, Emergency Management will also have an online form that can be filled out.
“Open burning regulations are an often-overlooked component of community safety,” District Attorney Suzanne Valdez said. “Unpredictable weather patterns can cause burns to become uncontrollable and unsafe. Safe burning is essential to community welfare, and issues of community safety and welfare are of paramount importance to this office.”
The draft policy can be found in a link at the bottom of this story. Emergency Management staff plans to have a final policy posted by Jan. 1, 2024. They also will coordinate an educational campaign to promote information about open burning.
For more information, visit: dgcoks.org/emergencymanagement
Related DocumentsDraft policy for open burning in the unincorporated areas of Douglas County
Contact: Karrey Britt, Communications Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org