Continued dry weather has prompted the Huntington County Commissioners to institute a ban on burning throughout Huntington County, at least through Friday, June 22.
The seven-day ban will be re-evaluated on June 22.
The ban covers all of Huntington County, including cities and towns. Fires, including campfires, are also banned at Roush Lake.
It does not cover fireworks, says Huntington Fire Marshal and County Commissioner Leon Hurlburt. However, state law prohibits the use of fireworks before June 29 and Hurlburt is urging people to voluntarily put off lighting fireworks until after the dry spell.
As of June 18, Huntington County has had less than an inch of rain for the month, far below the historical average for June.
"We're trying to be proactive instead of reactive," explains Brian Topp, interim director of the Huntington County Emergency Management Agency.
"We will post it in our campground," says Jeff Reed, property manager at Roush Lake. "If there's a burn ban, we have to go along with it."
The commissioners consulted with Topp and area fire chiefs before declaring the ban.
The ban includes campfires and the burning of brush or garbage, Topp says. Violators can be arrested and charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
"I encourage people to use common sense," Topp says. "The biggest thing is don't be burning ditches, don't be burning brush files, don't be flicking your cigarette out the window."
Fireworks are a concern, Hurlburt says, and he's encouraging area residents to refrain from lighting them off until the current dry conditions are relieved by rain.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security says that although a burn ban doesn't prohibit or restrict the use of fireworks, state law does set some specific times when fireworks can be used.
Those times are:
• Between 5 p.m. and two hours after sunset on June 29 and 30; July 1-3; and July 5-9.
• And between 10 a.m. and midnight on July 4.
"With our current conditions, any fire has the potential to cause a sizable out-of-control blaze," Hurlburt says. "Use common sense when dealing with any situation that has the potential to start a fire of any size."
Hurlburt offers some advice to prevent dry areas from going up in flames.
"You should never throw a lighted cigarette out of the window of a vehicle or onto the ground. Always use ashtrays and never walk off and leave a cigarette burning," he says.
"Always use caution when handling anything that produces heat, or could produce a spark.
"Mulched areas around homes and businesses can quickly become a source of fires for a couple of reasons," he adds. "First, because of the dry conditions, mulched areas are very dry and great source to start a fire.
Second, they often double as outdoor ashtrays. Discarded cigarettes appear to be the leading cause of mulch fires.
"When cooking outside never leave a charcoal or gas grill unattended. It is important to make sure that the coals are completely cool before disposing of them from a charcoal grill. Keep outdoor cooking devices well away from your home or garage when using them."
The county's average rainfall for June, according to figures from U.S. Climate Data, is 4.37 inches.
This year, according to figures recorded at the Huntington water plant - the official National Weather Service observation station for Huntington - the area has received just .74 inch of rain in June. That includes .42 inch of rain on June 1, .02 on June 2, .25 on June 3 and .05 on June 11.