Niles resident Chet Jones tries to keep his front yard green during a dry start to the month of June. Daily Star photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Archived Story

Dry conditions concern firefighters

Published 5:25pm Tuesday, June 12, 2012

With the sun beating down late Tuesday morning, Chet Jones turned on a sprinkler and watched it rain down water on the front lawn of his Marion Street home in Niles Township.

He’s been watering about three times a week since the weather turned dry a few weeks ago. He’d water more if it didn’t mean running up his water bill.

“I thought we were going to get some rain last night, but we didn’t get a drop,” Jones said.

Water usage in Niles Charter Township in May was up 30 percent compared to the average over the past three years. Gary Schrader, public works manager for Niles Township, said they pumped out 10.5 million gallons this May compared to the 7.5 million gallons average the past three Mays.

“It’s definitely up, but we have the ability to put out about 30 million gallons if we need to,” he said.

Fortunately, dry conditions haven’t led to an increase in grass fires in the Niles area.

Niles Township, Niles and Bertrand Township fire departments are all reporting average to below average reports of grass fires. Robert Nelson, of Dowagiac Fire, said his department has seen only a slight increase in grass fires.

That doesn’t mean the potential for fires isn’t there.

“I think it is just a matter of time because the conditions are out there,” said Don Wise, Niles fire captain. “As we get closer to the Fourth of July and we don’t get any rain I think we are going to start seeing it.”

Open burning is banned within Niles and Dowagiac, and is not allowed in Niles Township from May 15 to Sept. 1. However, Wise said residents could burn using things like fire pits as long as they meet certain requirements.

“People should be cautious when burning. Have a hose or bucket of water nearby in case anything gets out of control,” Wise said.

With no rain in the forecast for the rest of the week, fire department personnel will have to remain on their toes, and residents like Jones will have to keep turning on the sprinkler.

“I’d like to have some rain real soon,” Jones said.

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