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Citations coming for burn ban violations

There’s always somebody who doesn’t get the message. So the next”somebody” is going to get a misdemeanor.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department will begin writingcitations to violators of the county’s two-week-old ban on outdoorburning after the grace period for issuing only warnings was unableto curb the spread of local wildfires. Supervisors on Monday gavedeputies the go-ahead to begin issuing the tickets, which carry amaximum fine of $500 and up to six months in jail.

“We’ve had some problems with a few people who are ignoring theban and setting fires that are getting out of control,” saidLincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey. “After somediscussion with the fire departments and the forestry commission,we recommend that we go ahead and start issuing citations.”

Galey told supervisors there have been around 20 grass and woodsfires in the county since the burn ban was enacted on Oct. 4 -alongside a statewide ban issued by the governor that same week -with eight fires breaking out over the weekend and four burningsimultaneously on Sunday alone. The burn ban has apparently stoppedsome residents from sparking up their trash barrels and campfires,as the frequency of recently combated wildfires has decreased byhalf since the ban was ordered up.

But no matter if it’s 20 fires in one week or 20 fires in twoweeks, 20 fires are 20 too many, Galey said.

“I don’t know if people just don’t know about the ban, or ifthey just don’t understand how dry it is,” he said.

Lincoln County – and much of the state – remains under a RedFlag warning issued by the National Weather Service after anapproximately two-month drought has made conditions ripe for thespread of wildfires. The ground is extremely dry, humidity is lowand winds are usually gusty – conditions that make fires burn fastand hot.

With conditions so poor, the burn ban has outlawed any kind ofoutdoor flame – from trash fires to burning leaves to BBQ pits.

“It’s been anything from people throwing cigarettes out thewindow to people burning leaves to power lines sparking,” Galeysaid. “One of (the recent fires) was as simple as a man burningleaves.”

The biggest fire to occur in the two-week period since the burnban was put into effect occurred Sunday in the Topisaw community.Galey said what appeared to have been caused by hunters burning offa food plot spread to a 60-acre blaze, requiring the forestryservice and volunteers from multiple county fire departments tobring it under control.

No improvement is expected in the near future.

A forestry commission alert warns that dry conditions willlikely continue throughout the fall, with a La Nina pattern in thePacific Ocean mostly prohibiting rainfall in the South. Winds willincrease as October passes on, and rains from cold fronts areexpected to be minimal.

“We’re dealing with conditions we have no historical match for,”said Lincoln County Service Forester Howard Stogner.

The simple answer to the burn ban is to cease burning, saidLincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing.

“People need to recognize the ban and don’t burn anything at themoment – even the little fires can get out of hand,” he said.

Rushing said concerned citizens can report burn ban violators bycalling his office at 601-833-5251, adding that there’s no way tohide an out-of-control fire.

“We’re riding around out in the county, too. We’ll see thesmoke,” he said.