Drought Update: 23 Hoosier Counties Order Burn Bans
If this drought continues any longer, Judith R. Writsel may go outside and do a rain dance.
“I’m tempted,” she said. “We definitely need some rain.”
Writsel, who runs the Lynnville, Ind., Park Campground, prayed for rain the past several weeks in hopes avoiding a second year of a burn ban during the park’s peak business time. But her prayers were to no avail, as the Warrick County Commissioner’s Office became the first county in the Tri-State area to issue a burning ordinance this year, declaring an open fire emergency Monday morning (June 18), the Evansville Courier & Press reported.
The ordinance restricts anyone from starting an open fire within the county without a permit from a local fire department. Currently, 23 of Indiana’s 92 counties have issued burn bans.
Vanderburgh County Commissioners are expected to discuss a countywide ban tonight during their weekly meeting, according to Lisa Hoffman, an administrative assistant with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Evansville office. The EPA and Evansville Fire Department made a joint decision recommending a burn ban be placed on the commissioners’ agenda, she said. County Commissioner Marsha Abell confirmed a discussion of a burn ban is on the agenda.
Gibson County commissioners also are expected to discuss a burn ban today during their weekly meeting, according to Kay Vore, an assistant in the Gibson County Commissioners’ Office. In Posey County, a a possible county burn ban was discussed in a meeting in May with all the county’s fire chiefs, according to Wes Dixon, assistant chief of the Mount Vernon Fire Department. The conglomerate, which meets every two months, is yet to discuss any further action on a burn ban, he said.
Writsel, who was surprised the Warrick ban wasn’t put in place sooner, is glad it finally came down. She said she is prepared, along with her staff, to keep a watchful eye on campgrounds in the coming days, an area with 75 sites. She said last year there were no incidents with campers disobeying the burn ban, but if they do, it’s a verbal warning followed by an ejection. Although she’ll lose a handful of would-be campers because they can’t enjoy the traditional campfire, she understands the importance of the restriction.
“I’d rather have that than an entire campground burn down,” she said.
With local precipitation levels at 11.53 inches for the year, compared to 32.62 inches this time last year, burn bans should come as no surprise. And with the next week plagued with ozone warnings and temperatures in the mid-90s, campers are finding good reasons to leave their tents at home.
“It’s so hot for people to even camp,” said Patsy Marshall, who along with her husband, Jim, has owned and operated Yellow Banks Recreation Center in Dale, Ind., for 45 years. “If they’re going to have to sit in their campers, running the air conditioning, they might as well stay home.”
If it continues into next month, the burn ban will be a thorn in the recreation center’s plans for Independence Day, when campers gather to watch a fireworks display over a lake in the camping area .
“We have a whole houseful coming in for fireworks,” she said. “The outlook doesn’t look very good.”