Change in Chippewa County Burn Permits application process announced

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

The Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office announced a new way to obtain Burn Permits last week. The new system is now in place to file Burn Permit Applications online. Chippewa County Sheriff Derek Olson says the primary driving factor for changing over to the new system has been a need to free up the time Burn Permits have taken away from dispatch. “I don’t have a secretary at our dispatch window, and it’s been common culture in our community to stop in to dispatch to get various things, one of those being Burn Permits,” says Olson. “It’s taking my dispatcher away from communications to help with that permitting process. Although we really love the interactions with the public, our dispatch center is just busier and expectations with today’s society are higher.” Additionally, the change allows the public to obtain their permits faster. “A lot of times farmers see the need to burn and knowing they have to call in beforehand means a lot of times they’re requesting a permit five minutes before they’d like to burn,” says Olson. “It’s been somewhat cumbersome on that, whereas now they can apply to it from wherever they are at and we can submit it from our end and they’ve got their permit in hand on their phone and can go ahead and start their burn.”

A new way to obtain burn permits is available now on the Chippewa County website.

The process is a two-page application online, with the first page being information on where the burn will be located and the second page being a list of what not to burn that requires acknowledgment of reading. “It really should only take a couple of minutes,” says Olson. “It’s got an intuitive map on there, so they can actually use our county GIS data to select their particular parcel and they can even select if the burn is on the farm site or in the field. So if it happens to be a controlled burn of their CRP, they can select that. If it happens to be just a brush pile at their farm site, they can select the farm site. It’s really intuitive that way.” 

Olson notes that the process will also help free up staff in other departments as well. “Because of the permitting application of having to come here to get the permit, it’s been troublesome when a farmer wants to light the fire without an active permit and by statute, they’re supposed to. Permits are only good for a year, so they have to apply every year. If they’re short on time and they decide to light it anyway, my staff have had cell phone callers call in a fire somewhere. Then they’re running across the county to follow-up on a fire we didn’t know was burning, and it’s just a lack of permit. So really, it’s taking a lot of deputy time to follow-up with things like that when we prefer not to. When somebody calls in, we actually have an intuitive GIS map at our dispatch consoles where the dispatcher is logging the location of active fires throughout the county, and deputies and officers can see that on the map in their squad car as well. They can actually see where active burns are so there’s no need for follow-up if we know there’s an active burn there,” Olson says.

The application is now online at Multiple burn sites can be added to each application. An email address is required for permit approval to be sent to. “All of the staff and the city clerks have been shown the system early in the spring,” says Olson. “Our staff can fill it in for those who need assistance, but they have to have an email address when they come in or we can’t do it. It doesn’t have to be theirs it can be someone in the household or if they own a property but don’t farm it, it can be the renters.” The application site will be monitored and approved daily. Those who have used the new process earlier in the year and received an approval email will still have a valid permit for the 2021 season. A statement by the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office also notes, “Nothing has changed in state law regarding burning and you are still required to call before and after burning.”