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Despite burn ban, backyard fires OK in GF if you follow the rules

Despite a countywide burning ban, Grand Forks city residents still can enjoy a spring evening that includes a small fire. But with dry conditions as they are -- and for overall safety -- city code calls for certain guidelines for recreational fires.

Despite a countywide burning ban, Grand Forks city residents still can enjoy a spring evening that includes a small fire. But with dry conditions as they are -- and for overall safety -- city code calls for certain guidelines for recreational fires.

According to the Grand Forks Fire Department, recreational fires, which do not require a permit, must follow these rules:

n Size: The fuel pile (what's burning) must be 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height.

n Location: If the fire is on open ground, it must be at least 25 feet from the nearest structure or your property line, said Bruce Hoeger, a fire marshal with the fire department. If it is in an approved container, such as an enclosed fire pit or chiminea, it has to be 15 feet away. Many people have wood decks and may want to have their fire pit there, but Hoeger said that's not a good idea.

n Responsibility: Someone has to be present at all times at the fire, Hoeger said, and there must be some type of extinguishing gear on hand. That can be anything from a bucket of water to a garden hose or a fire extinguisher, he said. Dirt and sand buckets also can work.

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And the fire has to be "completely out" before you leave it, Hoeger added.

n What are you burning: "It must be firewood," Hoeger said. "You are not supposed to be burning leaves or trash." Paper garbage and grass clippings are a no-no, too. There's also the smoke factor. If you're burning some questionable firewood that causes heavy smoke or a heavy odor, the fire department may order you to put it out.

Normally, the Police Department or Fire Department is called out when a neighbor complains, officials said. Most times, it's just a talk about the rules with a property owner or renter, Hoeger and Lt. Jim Remer of the police department said, but people can be cited. Fines can be as high as $1,500.

Grand Forks County officially enacted its fire emergency and burn ban Wednesday after there were several grass fires last week and over the weekend. People have to get permission for a fire from the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department.

For more information, call the Grand Forks Fire Department at (701) 746-2569 or the sheriff's department at (701) 780-8280.

Related Topics: GRAND FORKS FIRE DEPARTMENT
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