Despite recent rains, beware of burning dangers

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- With wildfires raging through California, destroying hundreds of houses and killing now more than 16 people, one may perhaps give lighting that recreational fire in the backyard a second thought.
Fires are now especially dangerous here with the currnt falling leaves, a potential source of fire fuel which could cause it to easily spread .
Niles City Fire Marshal Bruce Leach said it's important to realize leaves can dry and blow up against house walls on windy days.
Leave a recreational fire unattended and you may have potential for a disaster.
That's also why the city's burning ordinance requires any recreational fire within residential areas be kept within a confined fire pit, Leach said.
Leach said the city ordinance also bans leaf burning in the city because of the fire hazard, the poor air quality and smog leaf burning creates.
People who don't follow the ordinance will be subject to civil fines, Leach said.
He suggests that people who plan to have recreational fires keep a source of water close and burn within a contained space on surfaces that won't catch fire.
Niles and Howard townships are not subject to the same burning ordinance as the city.
In addition to recreational fires, both townships allow their residents to burn leaves.
Chief Ron Fazi, Howard Township Fire Department, said the recent rain and cold weather has hampered dangers of grass and bush fires, which are among the most common types of fires in his township.
But that doesn't mean he thinks people shouldn't act responsibly when burning leaves or having recreational fires.
Fazi said those who burn leaves must burn their leaves 15 feet from the road and 10 feet away from their property line.
If people don't follow the township's burning ordinance, Fazi said a first time fine of $75 applies.
Fazi said fines increase with each offense.
Having been with the township's volunteer fire department for some time, Fazi thinks some people are aware of the township's burning ordinance, "but a lot aren't."
The biggest mistake people make, he said, are leaving fires unattended, especially in high winds.
To ensure fires don't get out of hand, Fazi said all fires should be attended by a competent person at all times.
He said people who are "staggeringly drunk" are not considered competent.
Like the city, the township requires recreational fires to be contained within a fire pit, ringed with stone, brick, concrete or concrete blocks, or steel tire rims.
The ordinance said it's only allowed to use seasoned fire wood not extending outside the fire pit or camp fire.
People who live within the City of Niles will have their leaves picked up by the city's street department.
Public Works officials encourage people to rake their leaves to the curb of the road, but not onto the road.
People also shouldn't be piling leaves over water meters, which could prevent the meters from being found and read.
Although the leaves may not be picked when resident expect, people are encouraged to maintain their piles until the leaves have been picked up.
The city will do two leaf pick-up sweeps, and a third one weather permitting. Currently, city workers are vacuuming up leaves in the third ward.

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