State Lawmakers Re-examine Legality of Third-Party Online Burn Permit Sites

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Questions about the legality of online burn permits has caused lawmakers to re-examine the issue.

The director of the Maine Forest Service earlier this year said Mainers relying on third-party online permit sites are breaking the law.

Lawmakers pushed through a measure last year dealing with this issue, but a new bill has been introduced to clear up confusion.

It lets municipalities use burn permit software bought from a private party to issue a permit if the software meets certain requirements.

Supporters say private systems like WardensReport.com are not only more convenient for fire chiefs and citizens, but also more effective than the state-run system.

"No cost, start time at 9, you can burn 'til 11. As soon as I finish filling out the online questionnaire and press 'enter,' my chief gets an email on his phone with all the information about me and the fire I'm about to light. Then he can send the same information to all the firefighters in the department," said Rep. Jeff Hanley, (R) the bill's co-sponsor.

"Escaped debris fires in Maine are the leading cause of wildfires every year. In our view, caution should be the rule and should outweigh convenience," said Bill Hamilton, Chief Forest Ranger, MFS.

The Maine Forest Service says conditions under which burn permits are allowed must be controlled by them.

Private-online burn permit sites are free. The state charges $7 for its service.

The bill could be amended to remove that charge so that all online permits are free.