Local fire departments have been called out to a number of grass fires throughout Mason County during the first part of spring.

“There is no burning at this time,” said Steve Vandervest, chief of the Hamlin Fire Department. “We have had three grass fires already this year. It is dry. We did not get a whole lot of snow this year, and there has not been a lot of precipitation out there to date.

“And it seems like just about everyday we have wind.”

He said even when the area received some rain, it does not take long for it to dry out.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website Mason, Manistee, Lake and Oceana counties are all currently in the no open debris burning permitted anywhere in those counties.

Vandervest said if you are planning to burn, he would advise that people first check the weather conditions and check the DNR burn hotline or website for permits.

Free Soil Fire Chief Vince Williams said he would advise people to never burn if it is windy. If it does not seem like a good idea to burn, then it isn’t the time to do it.

The Free Soil Fire Department was called to one grass fire this spring. It was a two-acre grass fire during a warm spell just after the snow melted, and it was due to someone who was burning some brush that eventually got away for them, according to Williams.

Willams said grass fires are not only a spring event — it all depends of how much moisture the county is getting.

“We have had some large fires in the fall,” he said. “In the summer is if we are in a drought, stuff that is green will burn.”

Vandervest said if Hamlin Fire Department gets called out to a brush or grass fire, and the fire gets out of control, the person doing the burning could be liable for the cost.

“Generally, it depends on the circumstances. If it is something that just burns in their yard, there is not a bill,” he said “We will give a warning, but if we are called out a second time, they will probably receive a citation for burning.”

If the fire does damage to the neighbors’ property then the fire can start costing them some money, according to Vandervest.

Where can people get a burn permit

Residents living in northern counties can usually obtain a permit from their local DNR Forest Management District Offices or by going to www.michigan.gov/deq (click on “Air” then “Open Burning Information”).

Always check with city, township or county officials to see if there are any local ordinances that prohibit open burning in the area. Most localities restrict open burning in one way or another because of the number of nuisance problems that arise from the activity.

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