Those fall campfires in the backyard are allowed all across northeast Johnson County within some restrictions like keeping it in a fire pit and burning only firewood or tree limbs and branches.
The one outlier in the area is Merriam where burning leaves is still allowed. Nowhere else can any kind of yard waste be burned. Even in Merriam that requires an open burning permit from the fire department. Merriam is now consolidated with the Overland Park Fire Department which reports that the preponderance of open burning permits have come from Merriam, dwarfing all of the other requests across the district.
In all of the cities covered by Consolidated Fire District No. 2, only the traditional recreational fires, such as small camp fires or chimneas are allowed with the following stipulations:
- The fire must be continuously attended.
- A garden hose or fire extinguisher must be nearby.
- The fire cannot be within 25 feet of a structure or any combustible material.
- Conditions which could cause a fire to spread within 25 feet shall be eliminated prior to ignition.
- Only firewood, tree limbs, and branches shall be used as burning materials. Yard waste (leaves), paper and other combustible materials are prohibited.
If anyone complains about the smoke of a legal recreational fire, CFD2 is obligated to extinguish it. CFD2 Fire Marshal Todd Kerkhoff says that the cities in the fire district adopt the International Fire Code to some extent as part of city ordinances which puts the restrictions in effect.
In Merriam, though, allowing residents to burn leaves has been a long-standing tradition that the city still allows. It is a practice long abandoned in most other cities. The fire department can put out a fire even with a permit based on a complaint and concerns about health effects of the smoke.
A couple of Merriam residents did appear before the city council recently to ask for a change in policy. Assistant City Administrator Chris Engel says the city staff is exploring options for alternative methods for residents to dispose of leaves.
Several NEJC cities offer leaf pickup service in the fall or the trash haulers allow extra bags of yard waste to be picked up. Merriam also does not have a single-hauler trash system so residents have to enter into their own agreements.