Open burning of leaves in urban areas is illegal under state law unless you have a permit, or unless you are the Baltimore County Fire Department.
That's why rush-hour motorists passing the county fire training site on Bosley Avenue in the heart of Towson last week may have been surprised to see uniformed fire academy cadets raking leaves against the fence, then calmly watching them being consumed by bright orange flames.
The Fire Department says it's a training exercise.
According to the academy's director, Battalion Chief Gary Warren, the department solves three problems by allowing cadets to burn leaves:
* It gets rid of the leaves.
* It provides training for the cadets.
* It helps prevent fires caused by sparks that may be blown onto dry leaves on department property when cadets are learning to douse other kinds of fires.
The cadets can no longer use their brick "burn house" in Towson to learn how to fight fires in buildings because it's too old and deteriorated. The cadets are bused to College Park, Carroll County, Baltimore-Washington International Airport and city training facilities to learn that part of the job while waiting for the county to build a new facility, said Warren and Fire Chief Paul H. Reincke.