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Published: Wednesday, 3/24/2004

Outdoor fires bring warning from EPA

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Winter's chill is still in the air, but area residents are already heating up spring with illegal outdoor fires.

Officials from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday they have received about six complaints in the past few weeks of illegal burning along the outskirts of Perrysburg.

"There have been more complaints than usual from that specific area,'' said Dina Pierce, a spokesman for the agency.

She said most of the illegal burning has been too close to neighbors.

Under state law, people must keep outdoor fires, except those used for cooking, at least 1,000 feet from inhabited buildings on neighboring properties.

Perrysburg Fire Chief Ronald Thompson said some construction crews have been illegally burning trash on their sites.

Firefighters in Perrysburg have extinguished at least five illegal fires this spring.

"The biggest problem is that people who are doing construction are starting fires to get rid of debris,'' he said.

Law enforcement officials said they usually put out illegal fires and issue a warning to people not following city and state burning guidelines. The state environmental protection agency also has authority to enforce the rules.

State officials said they received 121 complaints of illegal burning in northwest Ohio last year and 118 complaints in 2002.

The Ohio EPA usually sends first-time offenders a warning letter and gradually gets tougher for repeat offenses, Ms. Pierce said. The maximum penalty for illegal burning is a $25,000 fine.

"If people persist in violating the law, then we'll send the case to our enforcement people and that could result in a fine,'' Ms. Pierce said.

It is illegal to burn any materials containing rubber or plastic because the fire releases toxic fumes into the air.

When burning permitted materials, such as brush and leaves, residents are urged by officials to avoid windy days and to clear a 10-foot area around the burning site to prevent outdoor fires from spreading.

Contact Rachel Zinn at:

rzinn@theblade.com

or 419-874-3903.



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