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'Controlled burning' incident sparks confusion

DICKINSON - This past Friday morning at about 8:30, Richard Schleve was burning some garbage in a barrel at his home on 110x Ave. S.W. in the Kralicek subdivision north of Dickinson.

DICKINSON - This past Friday morning at about 8:30, Richard Schleve was burning some garbage in a barrel at his home on 110x Ave. S.W. in the Kralicek subdivision north of Dickinson.

Dickinson Rural Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kurt Lefor said Schleve received a verbal warning for violating the county wide burn ban that is in place.

This action has raised the attention of many area officials involved with the incident, because Schleve has not been charged for violating the ban.

"This person did not get cited," Lefor said. "We got the moisture that day and he was not aware of the burn ban."

He added although absolutely no burning is allowed in Dunn County, circumstances could lead him to refrain from citing individuals.

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"It's illegal to burn anything, but just because they're burning it, doesn't mean it's going to be an automatic citing," Lefor said. "I presumed it was appropriate to do what we did."

Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said fire officials often make decisions on whether or not a citation is to be issued in matters such as this. Lefor agreed fire officials do take on that responsibility.

"It will be left up to the discrepancy of the officer in charge on the scene as far as the fire department goes," Lefor said. "If it is cited then it goes to the state's attorney."

Tuhy, Lefor and Stark County Emergency Manager Gary Kostelecky all agree circumstances surrounding such issues should be considered before a person is charged with an infraction of the burn ban.

"As far as emergency management is concerned, these are violations of the burn ban, but we do have to take into account individual circumstance," Kostelecky said.

However, Stark County State's Attorney Tom Henning said the decision of whether or not somebody is to be charged with an infraction of the burn ban is not up to any of these people.

"The prosecutor is the one who has to make that call...those people's job is protection, prosecution is my job," Henning said. "It sounds like we've got a little bit of confusion."

He added it should not be left up to fire officials to decide whether someone is violating the ban.

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"It's the intent, I'm sure, of the sheriff's office that first notification should go to the emergency response people, but after that, in so far as possible violations are concerned, that's where I think we're getting a little bit of confusion," Henning said.

He added it is up to him to decide whether or not individuals are charged.

Lefor said part of the reason he gave Schleve a warning was because he believes there are still a lot of people in the area who are not aware there is a burn ban.

"Basically because of a lack of publication and people don't know or haven't heard about it yet as far as the ban being on," Lefor said.

Henning disagrees, however. He feels there has been adequate information that has been made available to area residents.

"There's a limit of how many opportunities somebody's going to get to tell a judge 'I just didn't know' and this is a strict liability offense, so it's pretty much a matter of whether you know or not, you should have known," Henning said.

Henning said while he did want to give residents time to learn about the ban and considered issuing warnings shortly after the ban was in place, it has been long enough and action needs to be taken against individuals violating it.

"The information concerning the burn ban has been available for a suitable amount of time and violations are being prosecuted," Henning said.

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Dickinson Volunteer Fire Chief Bob Sivak believes most Dickinson residents realize there is a ban in place.

"We really haven't had much of a problem here," Sivak said. "At this point in time, the citizens in Dickinson seem to be very well aware of the fact that within the county there is a burn ban."

Sivak added he and Kostelecky have been working o put together guidelines for Dickinson residents to follow while the burn ban is on. He hopes those guidelines help answer questions about what people can and can't do during the burn.

The ban is not going to be lifted until it is determined that Stark County has received adequate moisture.

"We're going to need a minimum of about 3 inches of rain over a short period of time and let the country green up before the danger is eliminated," Kostelecky said.

Henning said individuals who choose to violate the ban are subject to an infraction that's punishable with up to a $500 fine for a first violation. A second infraction may be charged as a Class B misdemeanor.

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