Your in Rural Town USA. Driving you POV to the local gas station to get a soda and pump some gas. On your way you smell smoke, rather thick.


Clear sky, 90F

Wind 10-15, Gusting to 20.

No Rain for SEVERAL days.

You turn your POV down a dirt road, and the smoke gets thicker, and soon fills the road way. You stop and see a rather large bonfire, people sitting around drinking some beer, and throwing brush and other items into the large fire. You stop your POV and get out.

You walk up and make your self known.

"Hi all, Im (so and so of so and so Dept) how we doing today?"

people look at each other, and the "ring leader" walks towards you.

"The hell are you doing here? Get off my land!"

You ask if they have a permit, and they respond with,

"What the hells it to you?"

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First off, you hooped the smell of smoke in a POV without any duty to act, unless you are the local fire warden. So to answer your question, I would call the fire station like average joe citizen and report the smoke.

Now as far as fire department official response to your situation. In my state, law enforcement has no authority for issuance of permits, enforcement and open burning in general. But they do enforce the laws... for which our state, has instituted certain open burning permit requirements for the fire department officials, (fire warden). Therefore when responding to KNOWN non-permit illegal burns, we always call the police before leaving the station and meet a police officer on the scene before we engage in enforcing the non-permit conditions.

First one to not comply with the order to put out the fire buys silver bracelets... Problem solved.
As a couple of posters have already stated, I would leave, then call it in. Driving on to somebody's private property isn't a good idea.
You have too high a regard for yourself as a f/f. Anyone in my area running around looking for fire is on vacation. One soon starts to wonder why you suddenly find fires. If you do see something as described we notify our chief and he will decide the action to take. Be aware that you need to present an image to the public and bully is not the image to project. If you are perceived as a watch dog support and respect will be hard to find and an ass kicking very easy.
FETC, thats the kinda answer I was lookin for. Thank you.
Mac, I knew this thread would turn into a pile-on. I think you did the right thing investigating, and it's a polite gesture to let a landowner know he's breaking the law so he can deal with it rather than deal with the cops. I don't know if I'd approach a bunch of yahoos out drinking, but we all depend on our judgement.

So let's investigate the other options that have been presented:

1) without investigating, you phone it in and go to the station for the response. The boys spend the next year razzing you for phoning in a false alarm to some dudes' barbecue.

2) You bring down the thunder on some old timer burning leaves in his yard, as he has done for the past 50 years. The cops slap a fine of several thousand dollars on a pensioner.

3) You "mind your own business" and eventually get called out for a major fire.

We have a duty of care to investigate this sort of thing. You are not trespassing by walking on someone's property to talk to them. You are trespassing when they ask you to leave and you don't. For that matter, in Maryland the landowner is trespassing if there is a fire and the fire department tells them to vacate!

Investigating smoke and smells is what we do, I think you were doing your duty in this case to at least see what was going on. If you feel it is appropriate to approach the landowner, that's your call, but I would advise thinking about it and at least phoning it in before doing so.
Mac, in my area I issue fire permits and enforce the rules. Of course I am the Fire chief so I have that authoraty. If you pulled that scenario around here yes, you might have a butt whipping. I regularly drive around and if I see smoke I will drive up to peoples property and see whats going on. If I am in POV I might stop bu of course I am pretty well known. Even so, the scenario you mentioned I would say Hey! whats up? in a freindly way. And then talk to them about whats expected. If it appears they arnt real cooperative or they need further ASSITANCE, I will leave and call for Police assistance. When I'm in uniform and in my Duty vehicle its about cooperation. But! if they get squerly then we call for backup. My firefighters do not do as you did. They call the 911 dispatch and report it and then Myself or Asst Chief will be called to go check it out. A rural Fire agency guy did just what you discribed. He walked up from his POV and started geting in these guys face. He got a busted jaw (literally) and spent two day in the hospital. All over a bonn fire on the beach. Yah, the guys had a big bonn fire and they were drinking. There is a right way to handle things and a wrong way. Its best handled by the proper authoraty and in the appropriate means.
All of the fire officers within the department (not just the fire chief) are wardens. None of the firefighters are wardens and not their responsibility to administer, issue, or enforce permits.
i guess this iis a good time to mention this never really happend. its just a what if question.
on my dept our fire warden is the asst c' and both him and the big cheese have givin all our ff's the limited power to just check burn piles and permits.
In many states, recreational burns are legal as long as the property owner has a readily-available means of fire control, such as a large fire extinguisher or garden hose with adequate volume and pressure.

Sitting around the fire having a few oat sodas is recreational, pretty much any way you slice it.

The only exception to the above in my state are if all burning has been banned by the state fire marshal, or by the local fire chief or fire marshal IF the local AHJ has a fire control ordinance. Even then it usually requires the physical presence of the fire marshal or deputy FM, plus an engine company, plus law enforcement, and then the engine company is responsible for extinguishment unless the property owner has already done it.

Off duty in a POV, you have no legal right to be on their property, let alone to confront the owner about his recreational fire. The only legal recourse you have is to make a phone call and report the situation as a "possible illegal burn", then drive away without breaking any local traffic laws.

You might still have to defend the trespass case, after.
Sweet! In Kali's district, you can beat up firefighters! I'm moving there and inviting one of my former captains over!
If you want to enforce the law, you should have checked the box marked, "Police Officer" on the application instead of "Firefighter". First off, you're in your POV. Second, you never made it clear in this scenario if you were in your own fire district or just "Rural town, USA". If you're in your own district, call the Police and report the bonfire. If you're not in your district, I would advise the same thing. It would be a shame for you to catch a beat down from a bunch of drunk jackasses just because you're trying to enforce a local ordinance! Hope this helps. Stay safe!

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