Con: Burn bans penalize everyone, violate rights

Aug. 25, 2013 at 3:25 a.m.

Goliad County Commissioner Ted Long has voted against burn bans for years.

"I see it as an assault on our private property rights, plain and simple," Long said. "I see a burn ban just like gun control. It only affects the people who are doing it right in the first place."

Long started as a volunteer firefighter when he was 15. Now 50 years old, he has seen his share of fires and said burn bans don't keep people from burning.

In fact, he said, burn bans give people the impression it is safe to burn if there is not a ban in place - which is not always the case - instead of checking the weather conditions themselves.

The violation of property rights affects everyone, from people burning trash to ranchers and farmers burning off brush, Long said.

Bob McCan, manager of McFaddin Enterprises, who has worked for the large ranch since 1980, said prescribed burns are a necessary aspect of ranching.

The best time to burn on a ranch is typically when burn bans are enacted, McCan said, making it difficult for farmers and ranchers to get their jobs done.

Ranchers and farmers can do a prescribed burn during a burn ban only if they have a certified burner tending the fire. These people must attend and pay for a weeklong fire safety course and then complete 30 burns before they are qualified.

"It is a burden on a lot of ranchers, especially smaller operations that may not have someone they can send to a course for five days and then go do 30 burns," McCan said.

It took a year for the certified prescribed burner on his ranch to get his certification.

McCan said he is not against burn bans altogether but said there needs to be fewer restrictions for producers.

Even Long, a county commissioner, must have certification to burn brush off county roads during a burn ban.

Brenda Boston, a resident in Westhoff, said her home was threatened by a smoldering fire that got out of control when her neighbor was burning, but she does not think burn bans are a solution.

Instead, people should burn safely by checking the weather and wind forecasts, having water on hand and always staying with fires.

"Burn bans are questionable," Boston said. "They could be a violation of property rights. ... It is just common sense. If it is too windy, don't do it. Don't leave a fire alone."

Instead of burn bans, Long said, there should be more accountability when fires cause damage.

"I would like to see counties be able to fine the hell out of anyone burning irresponsibly and the fire gets away from them. I would rather see that than penalizing everyone," Long said.

Pro: Burn bans save property, lives



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