Janesville fire marshal offers tips during peak burning complaint season

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Shelly Birkelo
Friday, May 9, 2014

JANESVILLE--When David and Faye DeVoll's neighbor burned garbage in his campfire kettle, the odor and smoke was unbearable for David, who has asthma.

They closed all the doors and windows of their east side Janesville home, but David's eyes watered.

He coughed to nearly choking.

Other neighbors complain, too.

Eventually, David called police, and the burning stopped.

Such complaints become increasingly common in the spring as people begin yard work, said Sue North, Janesville fire marshal.

The department had 14 burning complaints in April compared to six in all of the previous three months.

Open burning and leaf burning are prohibited in Janesville.

North shared burning regulations and tips:

Q: What burning is allowed in the city limits?

A: Burning wood is allowed in an above-ground, manufactured campfire kettle that has a lid and screen to keep sparks from escaping.

No special permit is required to burn in a campfire kettle, but it must be kept at least 30 feet from buildings and wooden fences.

Fires in kettles are not allowed when winds exceed 20 mph.

Campfire kettles are not approved incinerators and should not be used to burn trash.

Q: What if a person wants to have a bonfire or burn inside the city?

A: Temporary burn permits can be granted for specific events, such as burning of the V at Parker High School or for religious ceremonies. Permits can be requested in writing from the fire department's lead fire inspector. Requests must include the date and time of the bonfire or burn, the nature of the event, a brief description of the bonfire or burn, precautions that may be taken and contact information of the person in charge.

The person making the request must call the Rock County 911 Communication Center at 608-757-2244 to notify dispatchers before starting the fire.

Anyone wanting a permit to burn in a city park must call the leisure services office at 608-755-3025.

Q: If you have a burning complaint, what should you do?

A: If it's an active burn, report it to the Rock County 911 Communications Center  at 608-757-2244.

If you have questions regarding a nonactive burn, call the fire prevention bureau at 608-755-3056 or the fire department shift commander after hours at 608-373-3440.

Q:  How are complaints handled?

A: A fire department official responds and assesses the situation to see if there is a violation. If the violator is uncooperative, police get involved.

Q: What if the violation happens again?

A: If there is a problem with the same person, the violator likely will receive a citation from police. Police and fire officials make the decision together.

Q: How much is the fine?

A: $263.50.

Q: What about burning regulations in townships outside of the city that the Janesville Fire Department serves?

A: Call your town hall for burning regulations.

Q: Where is more information available regarding the city's burning regulations?

A: Call the fire prevention bureau at 608-755-3056 or go online to www.ci.janesville.wi.us.

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