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Extreme dry conditions prompt burn ban

Lincoln County is now under a burn ban.

     The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors unanimously issued a burn ban for the county during their meeting Monday. The ban covers all outdoor fires and prohibits the use of fireworks.

     The request came from Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey and was approved by the Mississippi Forestry Commission.

     “Any type of outdoor fire goes against the burn ban,” he said. “We caution people who are not going to follow the burn ban to do so as safely as possible, but they would be liable for any damage done by a wildfire created by their activities.”

     He added that fireworks are not to be used.

     “Fireworks are prohibited with the ban,” said Galey. “I like them as much as everyone else does, so I hate that it comes at this time of the year.”

     The ban will be in place until the board’s next meeting on July 16. Usually exemptions are granted for burn bans to state agencies, but this ban includes no such exceptions.

     As of Monday evening, 23 of Mississippi’s 82 counties – including neighboring Lawrence and Pike – had burn bans in place due to the dry conditions.

     Galey said the weather had not cooperated of late.

     “It’s been so dry,” he said. “We just haven’t had any measurable rain in several weeks. There is none forecast for now. It’s so dry a match or cigarette would cause grass in your yard to burn.”

     Randy Chapin with the Mississippi Forestry Commission pointed out that the fire rating indices showing the likelihood of wildfires in the area are high. 

     “We track several different things for fire danger,” he said. “One is the Keetch Byrum Drought Index, which is an indicator of how dry it is and a way to predict extreme fire behavior and the extensive mop up that could happen. The range goes from 0-800, with 800 being basically a desert.”

     Chapin said there are three stations in the district, with one being in Copiah County, one in Marion County, and one at the Pike County Airport. The one in Pike County had a rating of 674, which was the highest in the area, as Marion’s was 655 and the Gallman station reported 587. He said a normal rating would be in the 350-400 range for this time of year.

     “Most people stop burning at a rating of 500,” he said. “So we’re well above that now.”

     One doesn’t have to look far to see the danger. A wildfire in Lincoln County south of Wesson on Saturday scorched 20 acres.

     “The crews had trouble controlling it because it kept jumping the fire line,” said Chapin. “Volunteers had to protect some trailers that were out there. It was a very hot day and the firefighters had to work very hard to put it out.”

     Elsewhere, Sheriff Steve Rushing said this is not the first time his department had dealt with a burn ban.

     “We’ve done this before,” he said. “We ask that the public works with us. It’ll be a busy week, but we just want folks to please abide by the burn ban.”

     Rushing said his deputies will do what they can to work with the public, but they need the public’s help.

     “We try to work with people and make sure they understand the burn is in place first,” said Rushing. “The last time we had a ban people worked with us very well.”

     District Three Supervisor Nolan Williamson said he didn’t like issuing the ban, but he felt it was necessary.

     “I hate it, but that’s what they say that we need to,” said Williamson. “It’s going to be rough with the holiday, but it’s what we have to do.”

     District Four Supervisor Eddie Brown agreed with Williamson.

     “I think it’s unfortunate that we have to do this,” he said. “I’ve been watching and some other counties have enacted a ban as early as two weeks ago.”

     Brown said the timing was the worst part.

     “It’s unfortunate that it hit at the Fourth of July, so I just urge people to use caution,” he said. “People understand it’s been dry, and this will just highlight it even more. There is an extreme chance of fire now.”

     Galey wanted to remind people that even if a small amount of rain falls, that would not be enough to ward off fire danger since conditions are extremely dry.