Brush fire prompts look into burning ordinance

A recent brush fire has prompted Columbiana officials to consider putting more &uot;teeth&uot; in the city’s outdoor burning ordinance.

Columbiana Fire Chief Johnny Howard said 15 volunteer firefighters battled a brush fire at the Stillwood Estates subdivision last month that tied up three pieces of the department’s equipment for more than two-and-a-half hours.

Howard said the blaze began when a contractor who was clearing the land for development allowed a brush fire to get out of control.

The contractor had not obtained a permit for the fire as required by the city’s ordinance, he said.

Howard said he has talked with Police Chief Michael Lann about the possibility of implementing a fine structure for unpermitted fires.

The current ordinance does not include penalties for burning without obtaining prior permission.

If a fine were imposed, Howard suggested it be high enough to deter contractors on a tight schedule from bypassing the permit process.

&uot;As long as you slap them on the hand, they’re going to be out there again next week,&uot; he said.

Mayor Allan Lowe agreed. &uot;You’re talking about an ordinance with some teeth in it,&uot; he said. &uot;You build a fire, you pay $25 $50

$100.&uot;

Howard nodded. &uot;Three digit numbers seem to get people’s attention,&uot; he said.

At the suggestion of City Clerk Terri Collum, the council last week adopted a &uot;checklist&uot; for contractors to make certain they are informed of all ordinances related to development when they visit city hall to obtain a building permit.

Permits for open burning are issued through the Columbiana Police Department, but Collum said anyone planning a large fire, such as clearing for development, also needs to check with the fire chief.

Even with a permit, contractors and others have only a few weeks left before a state-mandated ban on opening burning goes into effect, said Robert Kelley, Shelby County’s environmental manager.

Kelley said the annual ban issued by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management will begin May 1 and run through September.

Included in the ban are untreated wood, tree trimmings, brush or plant growth generated by clearing or maintenance of land or from demolition for the purposes of construction, right-of-way maintenance, development or farming