Officials urge caution when burning debris

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday’s rain was a welcome sight for area firefighters afterseveral days of chasing grass fires that in a number of cases werecaused by controlled burns that got away from landowners, officialssaid.

“I don’t know the number but I know it was a lot,” said LincolnCounty Fire Coordinator Clifford Galey about the recentfirefighting efforts.

Although the county is currently not under any burn bans, Galeycautioned that simply because it’s a nice day outside doesn’t makeit a good day to burn if conditions aren’t right. Other officialsexpressed similar warnings about proper conditions for burning.

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Brookhaven Fire Department Shift Capt. Ferman Freeman, who hasbeen in the fire service for 24 years, said the most importantthing when burning trash or leaves is control.

“If you’ve got a pile of leaves with the wind blowing, if it’sdry the wind can carry the embers and start another fire away fromthe fire,” Freeman said. “Don’t just go out there and set fireunder the assumption that’s where it’s going to stay, because itmay not.”

Galey agreed, saying a water source is important when there’sany kind of fire involved, and that it’s always better to haveseveral smaller piles rather than one big one.

“Don’t have your pile that you’re burning too large,” he said.”You’d rather burn smaller piles, and make sure you stay with them.Make sure you have access to water, that you have a water hoseavailable.”

Freeman said monitoring the fires, whatever their size, is keyto keeping them under control.

“Always stay conscious of a fire, don’t leave it to go to townor wherever,” he said. “You need to stay with it. It needs to beguarded, not set and then you walked off and left.”

And if it looks like a fire is starting to get out of control,it’s better to call the fire department or the Mississippi ForestryCommission immediately rather than give it a chance to get evenworse, Galey said.

“Don’t wait until it’s too late,” he said. “We and the forestrycommission go to a lot of these, and as soon as you realize it’sgotten out of control, you need to call us so we can get therebefore it gets too big for us to control too.”

Galey said a simple phone call can save landowners and fireservice personnel a lot of trouble.

“Call the forestry commission, because they issue burn permits,but they can also give information as to if it’s a good time or notto burn,” Galey said.

But when spring is coming and the weather is windy, it’s betterto exercise extreme caution. Controlled burns are not the onlyproblems with grass, brush and forest fires, Freeman said.

“People going down the road, throwing cigarettes out, beconscious of that, even if it rained the day before,” he said.”There’s always a chance it could catch that grass on fire and itcould burn. Also people emptying ashes out of a wood stove. You mayhave coals mixed up in those ashes and you’re going to end up witha fire on your hands.”