Several Johnson County cities issue burn bans

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Several cities in Johnson County, Kansas, have issued burn bans.

Olathe, Merriam, Lenexa, Shawnee and Overland Park have all issued the bans, due to dry and windy weather. No burn permits will be issued during this time.

“It usually has to deal with low humidity and high winds, which we've had a lot of over the last few weeks,” Olathe Fire Marshal Mark Wassom said.

Wassom said lately it seems the common grass fire season has started earlier, in winter.

“We just discussed on Monday with our command staff, February has become a pretty good month where we've seen more grass fires than maybe what we're used to,” Wassom said. “As we have these winters with limited snow fall, limited rainfall, where everything gets really dry -- it's moved our grass fire season, if you will, a little bit earlier into the year.”

Permits will not be issued until the bans are lifted.

“We're not out here to write tickets to people, but if we do have to go back some place multiple times, or if somebody's doing something that's especially dangerous, we will write a ticket for that activity,” Wassom said.

The fire department does not have a set fee on the fines. Wassom said it depends on the courts.

In the city of Olathe, there’s been nearly a dozen fires just within the last week because of cigarettes or improper burning.

“We're having a lot of trouble right now with people burning limbs and more often leaves in their yards, and we don't want any of that,” Wassom said.

Just earlier this year, Overland Park fire crews had to control a large grass fire likely caused by a cigarette.

“People really don't expect that from such a small ignition source, but we get it,” Wassom said. “There's been lots of calls along the highway, on the roads, just a dumpster fire yesterday, so they ignite quickly and then they burn more rapidly since everything's so dry.”

Fire officials strongly urge residents not to do any kind of outdoor burning activities.

“We generally don't worry about grills, as long they're well contained and used properly, but really don't want fire pits being used,” Wassom said.

Wassom said once the area gets more rain, the ban will be lifted.

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