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County Officials Explain Burn Ban

The Drier Mercer Gets, The More Fires Reported

A soybean field on Chinn lane near U.S. 68 caught fire in 2019, causing the highway to be shutdown. Dry conditions this fall have firefighters responding to an average 3-4 calls a day. (Image: Lori Sheehan).

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

Editor’s Note: The following message from the Mercer County Fire Protection District was posted earlier today:

“Very thankful for the rainfall last evening. Mercer county received between .25″-.41” of precipitation. “Mercer county is approximately 2.5” below normal rainfall and is still considered in a D-01 drought condition.
“We are still under a burn ban. We will monitor the conditions and keep you updated if there any changes to the burn ban.
“Thank you for your understanding and patience. Please be safe and refrain from any outdoor burning until the ban is lifted and conditions improve.”

County officials are trying to get the word out about the burning ban. On Oct. 14, Judge-Executive Scott Moseley signed an executive order prohibiting all outdoor burning in Mercer County.

The burn ban comes as Mercer County—and much of the country and the rest of the world—has fallen into the grips of one of the driest seasons in memory. Some of the largest—and most commercially important—rivers in the world, including the Mississippi, China’s Yangtze and Germany’s Rhine, are at record lows. According to the US Drought Monitor, half of the contiguous US is covered by moderate or worse drought conditions, with more than 134 million people impacted.

Locally, the dry conditions have increased the number of calls to the fire departments. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Mercer County Fiscal Court, Chief Ric Maxfield of the Mercer County Fire Protection District said his department is averaging 3-4 runs a day. Maxfield said they have had 60 more calls this year than last year, and most of the increase has been over the past two months.

The open burning ban doesn’t include barbecues and outdoor fire pits. Camp fires, bonfires, cooking and burning of uncoated household paper and cardboard products can be burned. It is also legal to burn plant beds and tobacco curing. Materials for land management such as storm debris—tree limbs—natural growth from land cleaning can be burned. Builders can burn clean lumber on site only when the air temperature is below 50 degrees.

On Tuesday, Maxfield asked for the fiscal court’s assistance getting information to the public. “Help me educate the public as to what you’re allowed to burn and what you’re not allowed to burn,” Maxfield told the fiscal court. He provided the magistrates with a list of things that can be burned even when there isn’t a burn ban.

“For years and years, people used to burn their trash,” Maxfield said. However, state law forbids burning farm and household waste such as animal bedding, hay, muck piles (manure and hay), grass clippings, agricultural plastic and barns and trailers. It is legal to burn plant beds and tobacco curing.

“At no time ever are you allowed to burn any trash other than natural vegetation,” Maxfield said.

Household garbage such as animal or vegetable matter, plastic, coated paper products, cans and glass cannot be burned.

“You shouldn’t burn trash,” Maxfield said Tuesday. “You either have service or you haul it to the dump.”

The chief spoke about a recent fire where people tried burned household trash as well as stored tires. Maxfield said the fire department is not a law enforcement agency, but he reported the fire to Mercer County Sheriff’s Office and the Kentucky Division For Air Quality, which can impose fines of up to $25,000 per violation.

It is also illegal to burn buildings as well as construction materials such as asbestos, shingles, drywall and debris from construction, renovation or demolition. Common wood materials—fence posts, sawdust, wood mulch, pallets, wood chips and shaving and all wood building materials including painted, stained or pressure-treated wood—cannot be burned.

Maxfield said the fiscal court may need to revise a 2009 county ordinance that allows the burning of agricultural waste.

The state is also warning the public to follow these common sense precautions: don’t burn within 50 feet of any structure or near landfills. Don’t burn near streams or sinkholes or near utility lines. Don’t burn on windy days.

For more information about what can and can’t be burned, visit the Division For Air Quality website. Direct questions regarding the open burn ban to Chief Maxfield  at 859-325-0731 or Bluegrass 911 by calling 859-792-3023 or emailing

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  1. John Cotten on October 26, 2022 at 2:53 pm

    The dispatch call to burn number for mercer county should have published also, 859-724-3311, They will ask your name and address, and what you are burning so they know if someone calls in you are burning with permission and the fire dept. is aware of it.

    • Chief Maxfield on October 27, 2022 at 6:34 am

      Mr Cotten,
      The number in the article is the direct line to B911. It is more efficient to use that number as they are the Communication center for Mercer County.
      The number you listed is incorrect. The number is 859.734.3311. Though that is the Mercer local number it is transferred to the listed number in the article.

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