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Officials urge fire safety when clearing fall debris

As trees shed their bright colors in the fall, part of theannual ritual is the yard debris that accumulates and how toproperly dispose of it.

Local emergency officials are urging local leaf-burners toproceed with caution.

Lincoln County Fire Coordinator Clifford Galey and BrookhavenFire Department Chief Bob Watts said fall leaves should actuallyignite fairly well on their own without any aid, especially whenthe fall and winter months have not been wet.

“If the leaves are dry, it really shouldn’t take anything at allto get them going,” Watts said.

Officials said accelerants – while widely used – are not onlynot needed, but overall are not worth the risk.

“There’s no such thing as a safe accelerant,” said Galey.

Gasoline poses particular dangers because it has a lowflashpoint, officials said, meaning that it ignites quickly and canbe fairly explosive at the point of ignition.

“Gasoline is dangerous, and lighter fluid is just as flammableas gas, but a little less dangerous because you tend to have it insmaller amounts,” Watts said.

In addition to posing dangers to the person burning leaf piles,unsafe burning practices can be a threat to the environment whengrass and foliage are dry and dying like in the fall and wintermonths.

“It can very easily get out of control,” Galey said. “We justhad a grass fire in the Zetus area that was caused by nothing butsparks from a jumper cable.”

And when debris or trash are being burned, it’s important forpeople to remember to keep the flames in a safe area with somewater close by, officials said.

“You need it in a safe area, close enough to a water source thatit can be contained in case something does happen,” Galey said.

The wind can be an issue as well, Watts said. He added that whenBFD conducts a controlled burn, they call the Mississippi ForestryCommission to see if it’s a good day to do it.

“You have to be sure the wind won’t blow your embers anywhereelse,” he said. “Plus they can tell you what days the smoke willhang in the air, or whatever, and you can make sure you’re notgoing to be smoking up your neighbor’s house.”

Officials suggested that people in the county contact theforestry commission if they plan to burn, or check the Web site atwww.mfc.state.ms.us to see if there are burn bans in place. Dryconditions can be big reason for out-of-control fires.

“With the wind blowing and the cooler temperatures like theyare, what rain we do have doesn’t always last,” Galey said. “Ifyou’re doing any outdoor burning, please be careful.”

Watts also reminded Brookhaven residents that burning inside thecity requires a permit. There is no charge for the permit.

“Just check with us. See if the conditions are right, and get apermit,” Watts said.