Mid-County feel prepared for a busy year, though call volume has seen increase

Mitch Prentice
Lake Sun Leader
Mid County vehicle fleet.

Though early 2021 call volume has seen an increase compared to last year, Mid-County Fire Chief Scott Frandsen says they are more than ready to face the year ahead. Frandsen says the increase is around 15-20% comparatively, but this hasn’t posed a problem. 

With many area leaders expecting another big summer, Frandsen says they aren’t concerned about call volume. For Mid-County, an increase in foot traffic around the lake doesn’t necessarily reflect an increase in fire calls and brush fires. In 2020, which saw one of the biggest tourism years in recent memory, Frandsen says the call increase wasn’t extraordinary. 

“We think we’re prepared, we hope we’re prepared, but really anything could happen,” Frandsen said.

As for burning conditions, Frandsen says they have noticed a higher amount of red-flag burning days through the early months of 2021. These conditions lead to more brush fires and can tend to spread resources thin around the area. Frandsen says heavy snowfall in February led to increased nitrogen and ground fuel levels, causing small brush fires to burn hotter and faster. On top of this, March rains led to soft ground conditions and have made it difficult recently to get spray trucks into fields. 

Heading into his 13th year with Mid-County, Frandsen says he has been proud of the fire education the district has provided and believes the lake area is knowledgeable about burning conditions. Still, he asks that anyone hoping to burn soon look over guidelines to avoid the need for Mid-County or any other fire department. 

Burn permits are only issued when the wind is below 10 miles per hour, humidity is above 30 percent and temperatures are below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. A Red Flag warning with a statewide burn ban supersedes these local requirements. There are times of drought when this might be utilized, as severe drought would create dangerous long-term conditions even if the wind, humidity and temperatures do not disqualify that specific day for burning.

It should also be noted that open burns must never be left unattended, no matter how minor they might seem in the moment. Residents should have a hose and rake to attend to the fire and be able to put it out if need be. Open burning must be done before dark, and any open fire must be at least 25 feet away from any structure.

Here are a few other tips to avoid spreading natural cover fires:

Other tips to limit natural cover fires

‒Do not wait to call 911 at the first sign of a fire or an open burn that appears to be getting out of control.

‒Smokers should extinguish cigarette and cigar butts completely before disposal. Do not discard cigarettes from motor vehicles.

‒Secure trailer chains to prevent dragging. A spark in contact with dry grass could start a fire.

‒Off-Road Driving: Use caution when driving vehicles off-road. Sparks from vehicles or equipment coming in contact with dry grass can start fires in dry conditions. Catalytic converters on motor vehicles can also start fires when they come in contact with fine, dry fuel, such as grass. Always carry a fire extinguisher on vehicles that are used off-road.

‒Grilling: Use caution with outdoor grilling: Position the grill well away from siding, deck railing, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited. Never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going. Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

‒Fire Pits and Campfires: Be extra careful with fire pits and campfires, exercising the same precautions you would with an open fire. Consider the risks before lighting the fire. If you decide to light a fire, check the wind direction. Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby. Do not overload. Do not burn trash and leaves. Avoid using soft woods that are likely to pop and throw sparks. Remember to make sure the fire is fully extinguished before leaving the area. Embers in the fire bed can reignite a fire.