Arson suspected in wildfires



March 4, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Arson is suspected in the burning of several hundreds of acres of meadow and pasture grass at five places in southeast Allen County Wednesday. Other fires were reported in eastern Bourbon County.
A green all-terrain vehicle was identified in the vicinity of the fires, whose driver walked into grassy areas and set each of the fires, said Allen County Sheriff Tom Williams.
An Allen County Crime Stoppers alert asked for information that would lead officers to the owner of the vehicle, thought to be a John Deere product.
“The owner is not necessarily a suspect,” said Williams.
The first fire was reported shortly before noon and reports of the others came in over the next hour or so.
The only damage of consequence was to several bales of hay, Williams said. No structures were threatened. The fires burned dead grass, an agriculture practice farmers often employ in early spring ahead of new growth.
Firefighters from Savonburg and LaHarpe responded to ensure that the fires didn’t get out of hand as much as to extinguish them.

PURPOSELY setting fires on someone else’s property is a crime, Williams noted, and that Kansas law specifically prescribes when controlled burning may be done for agricultural purposes.
Fires are not to be started if ground wind speed is in excess of 15 miles an hour. They may not be set until an hour after sunrise or after two hours before sunset.
Before a fire is started authorities must be notified. The easiest way, Williams said, is to call 911.
“We know farmers need to do a certain amount of burning each year and the rule of thumb should be not to start a fire if there is any risk of it creating a hazard, particularly to traffic on nearby roads,” he said.

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