Dry conditions prompt area burn bans

Published 6:37 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lincoln County supervisors have declared October to be firefree, approving a county-wide burn ban for the remainder of themonth after woods and grass fires flared up almost daily in thepreceding weeks.

Supervisors unanimously voted in the burn ban Monday afterLincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey made therecommendation, pointing out local fire departments have respondedto at least 20 fires in the last week alone – some more than once.The National Weather Service has placed parts of Alabama, Floridaand Mississippi under a Red Flag warning, signifying thatconditions are right for wildfires to occur, he said.

“Things are getting bad. It’s really dry, the humidity is lowand the wind is picking up,” Galey said. “And I don’t foresee anyrain in the next three or four weeks.”

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This month’s burn ban is the first county leaders have enactedsince January 2006. It prohibits burning of any kind – trash,leaves, land clearing, camp fires or other types of burns – unlesscoordinated by the Mississippi Forestry Commission or a certifiedburn manager.

The forestry commission stopped issuing burn permits on Oct. 1and declared a statewide Wildland Fire Alert. The agency is notexpected to create or allow any types of fires, Galey said.

Supervisors will evaluate the ban and weather conditions at theend of October. The ban could be lifted if conditions have improvedor if rain falls in any significant amount before then.

The forestry commission is in charge of enforcing the burnban.

Anyone violating the ban will be asked to extinguish their firesby local law enforcement, with fire departments responding to putout fires in case of refusal. Burn ban violators can be fined underthe ban’s provisions.

Some measure of punishment in the ban is necessary because thetemporary law may be more symbolic than anything.

“Typically, it doesn’t make people quit burning. It’s a habit,”Galey said. “We’re really in good shape right now because there’snot a lot of people burning, but I’m afraid it’s going tostart.”

With Lincoln County added to the list, there are now 49 countieswith burn bans in effect statewide.

Officials in neighboring Copiah County have enacted a burn ban”until further notice,” said emergency management director RandleDrane.

“You know it’s dry when the kudzu is dying,” he said. “Octoberis typically a dry month, and I don’t believe we’re going to seeany rain soon.”

Drane said fire departments in Copiah County have been averagingfour or five fires each day in the dry weather.

“These fire departments are running too much on these littlegrass fires where people let things get away from them,” hesaid.