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Forestry officials urge safety in dry conditions

Mississippi Forestry Commission Officials are asking people tobe responsible when burning debris on their land during the currentdrought-like Mississippi August conditions.

“We want to caution people to be aware of how dry it is and thatthey don’t need to do any burning at all if they can avoid it,”said MFC Information and Safety Officer Dale Brown. “Postpone ituntil we get some rainfall. If they do want to burn, they need tobe very conscious to make sure it doesn’t get out.”

Brown said as hot and dry as it has been, the conditions thissummer are similar to the summer of 2000.

“It was a draught year and we had a lot of summer fires becauseof dry conditions,” he said. “That’s why it’s best to postponeburning until we have some significant rainfall.”

Part of the danger of burning is that a grass fire can quicklybecome a much larger issue because plants are so dehydrated, Brownsaid. The flames can spread when natural fuels have little to nomoisture to discourage the burn.

“In some cases where normally a fire may start and burn outbecause fuel has moisture in it, this time of year with thesetriple-digit temperatures, the grass has very little moisture init,” he said. “When green grass burns like it is now, that tellsyou not only the grass fuels but the woody fuels are too dry, andhave a minimum amount of fuel moisture. As it burns it preheatsthose fuels and when the fire gets there it easily ignites.”

Landowners can prevent fires on their property by keeping theirgrass cut short and establishing breaks in the fuel sources such astimber or tall grass, Brown said.

“The best thing they can do is establish fire breaks or firelanes,” he said. “If they’ve got timberland, they can establishfuel breaks. In some cases that won’t stop every fire, but if it’sa creeping fire it’ll keep it from burning all the way throughtheir property.”

Monday afternoon’s fire in southern Lincoln County burned atleast 500 acres. Brown said the Forestry Commission’s tractors wereable to bulldoze fire lanes, but that the wind was driving theblaze.

“That’s what carries the fire is the wind,” he said. “With thesestorms building, the wind in combination with the fire and thefuels is driving the flames.”

Forestry works in conjunction with the volunteer firedepartments of Lincoln County to keep burning curtailed, Brownsaid. The volunteers serve a valuable purpose not only when thefire is small, but when a multi-agency blaze occurs.

“The volunteers have been a tremendous help for us, being rightthere in the communities. They can get to the fire in advance of usand size it up,” he said. “In some cases unless it gets in thewoods, they can go ahead get it put out. They’re very valuable inprotecting structures as we attack the fire in woods, they canstand their ground and protect those structures from burning.”

At this time there is no burn ban in effect for Lincoln County,and Brown said it would not be up to the commission to invokeone.

“Once the procedure for initiating the burn ban comes throughthe Board of Supervisors, they send the paperwork and districtForestry signs off, then the state signs off on it and it makes theloop,” he said.