Sunday, April 21, 2013

Matter of SAFETY "Open Burning Regulations" by Chief Charlie Hammond

Open burning in Maine and Windham requires an Open Burning Permit issued by the State of Maine through the Windham Fire-Rescue Department. The Maine Forest Service provides a daily weather advisory for fire departments from April through October. 

The Maine Forest Service refers to them as “class days.” The class days are prepared based on the dryness of the ground fuels, grass conditions, fine fuel moisture of the products on the ground, wind speeds, rainfall amounts and other weather factors. The class days are usually provided to the local fire departments via email between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. The good days for open burning are referred to as a class 1 day, the next best day is called a class 2 day, which means it is okay but not the best of days to burn.

Windham issues open burning permits on class 1 and class 2 days. This is followed by a class 3 day, which is a marginal day for open burning. A class 4 day is dangerous and Maine Forest Service advises that no permits be issued on these days. A class 5 day is issued when the forest service advises the governor that no open burning should be allowed because of extreme conditions and the governor issues a proclamation. Windham may not issue on certain days because of staff shortages, special events that are occurring, or situations where personnel are committed to department activities and there is no one to issue or approve requested permits. We do not issue fire permits on Thanksgiving or Christmas. 

People should read their permits carefully as they contain information that is important to the open burning laws. Maine Forest Service, Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency have had input on the rules and regulations of the open burning laws. There are restrictions on what can and cannot be burned in open burning. 

Some other factors that impact open burning are the neighborhoods. Some areas of our community have buildings that are very close to one another. The smoke causes a nuisance and aggravates health problems for the people that live in these areas. When these conditions are present Maine laws allows for local fire departments to prohibit open burning in the area of the problem.

Windham has such areas in Brookhaven, Varney Mill Estates, Pinewood Acres, Tall Pines and an area on Cottage Road in East Windham. If you are unsure if you live in a restricted area, call 892-1912 or 892-1911 and we can provide you with the needed information. 

There are three ways that a permit may be obtained in Windham. One way is to go online to, log on to the website, complete the form and submit the form to the department for approval. If your street is not listed in the street list then your area is not allowed to have open burning. This does not include propane or charcoal grills in the restriction. It does include cooking fires and campfires with wood products as the fuel supply. A second way is to go to the Maine Forest website and complete their form, which is the same as the Windham website, pay the fee for the permit and submit it to the Maine Forest Service for approval. The final method is to go to the fire stations and complete the form at the fire station. 

For open burning permits during the week, obtain them at either the North Windham Station or the Windham Center Station from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. On the weekends, only North Windham Station issues the permits, because Windham Center station does not have access to the lobby to inform personnel that people are waiting. We are working to resolve this situation where a permit could be obtained at either Windham Center Station or North Windham.  

Please make sure you are in compliance with you permit requirements that are on the permit in fine print.

Burning without a permit is a misdemeanor and wastes our emergency response resources and your tax dollars. The fire department does not want you to spend your hard earned money in the judicial system of Maine. This year as in past years, department personnel will be providing information on the first response for burning without a permit. If we are required to respond for a second incident then we will be requesting the Maine Forest Service or Windham Police to issue a summons for the appropriate violations.

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