Residents who want to burn twigs and other brush need to get a permit.

Area fire department officials warn that in addition to permits, residents must take precautions to prevent wildfires and even damage to structures.

The Auburn Fire Department runs a notice on its sign on Washington Street with the message that there is no open burning without a permit.

Auburn Fire Chief John Phillips said camp fires as much as 5 feet wide are permitted without a permit, and should not be too close to a house.

“And don’t burn on a windy day,” he said. “Burn after a rain. Safe practices are what I try to get across.” Anyone wishing to burn brush in Geauga County has to get a permit from the Lake County Department of Air Quality Management District.

Across Ohio, the state does not allow any burning of leaves. Burning leaves generates a lot of smoke, he said. Burning leaves, done a lot in Amish country, can get out of hand in a hurry, Chief Phillips said.

He noted that the department dealt with an open burning issue on Wing Road. The fire traveled through the woods and came very close to a house, but the department was able to get the blaze under control. “People don’t realize they are liable if it damages someone’s property,” Chief Phillips said.

Education is the key to helping people understand the hazards of open burning, he said. There is a process in doing it safely.

“Some communities do not allow any burning, even with a permit,” Chief Phillips said. If tree limbs and sticks are going to be burned, he said, “keep it small. And stay with it. Don’t leave until the fire is out and keep water available nearby.”

When people apply for permits, a member of the fire department goes out to make sure the burning is done safely, Chief Phillips said. “It gives me an opportunity to talk with them,” he said. If he finds they are burning too big a pile or area, he will stop it.

People are getting the message and some do call for advice. Sometimes neighbors report open burning to the fire department. In those cases, the chief is obliged to go out to check it out.

Jim Finley, fire marshal with the Chagrin Falls Fire Department, said Cuyahoga County is generally stricter than Geauga County. Burning permits are acquired through the Cleveland Division of Air Quality.

The fire department signs permits issued within the fire department’s jurisdiction. A small bonfire is acceptable, but burning leaves, generally in the spring and fall, is not, he said. “We have a lot of that,” Fire Marshal Finley said.

A campfire for cooking, about 3 feet by 3 feet in size, is permitted in Chagrin. A larger fire requires a permit. “Most people don’t get permits, and we find out if a neighbor complains,” Fire Marshal Finley said. “And we see smoke when they are burning wet leaves and limbs, and we know they are not burning the right things.”

Burning agricultural waste is not a good thing for the environment, he said. It is pouring bad smoke into the air, and it is not burning clean, he noted.

While a little campfire is likely to go unnoticed, if the wrong materials are burned, it is going to produce smoke and neighbors are going to call about it, Fire Marshal Finley said.

Assistant Bainbridge Fire Chief Wayne Burge said getting a permit to burn in the township involves obtaining one through the Lake County Department of Air Quality Management District. There are certain rules that have to be followed in conjunction with the township fire department’s rules, he said. The form can be obtained online or by going to the Bainbridge Fire Station.

Lake County sometimes comes on site to verify what is burning. The resident must also obtain a permit from the fire department as well. There are rules on the size and what can and cannot be burned. Burning is permitted only during daylight hours, Assistant Chief Burge said.

A water hose or source of water should be on site as well. “We can revoke a permit at any time, such as if it is on a windy day or if the smoke affects a neighbor.”

There are some areas near the borders of Chagrin Falls and Solon where it is more difficult to get a permit than in other areas, he noted.

Many people burn leaves and the department has fought a lot of fires in the woods because of burning leaves, he said. Winds pick up the embers and they catch the dry leaves on fire in the fall.

Those who are interested in burning can call their local fire departments for information on obtaining permits. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has information on open burning on its website.

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