Mississippi Forestry Commission urges caution and adherence to Burn Bans during heightened wildfire risk

Published 2:20 pm Friday, September 22, 2023

The Mississippi Forestry Commission (MFC) wants Mississippians to be on high alert for wildfire activity due to extremely dry weather conditions. The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KDBI) continues above the 700 level in much of the state, creating an increased risk for devastating wildland fires.

MFC Fire Chief Randy Giachelli states, “We have not seen this pattern of wildfire activity in a long time. The drought conditions are causing the fires to burn extremely hot and to reburn from needle cast weeks later. This causes fires that are difficult to extinguish and walk away from.”

The MFC strongly urges everyone to adhere to burn bans and to not do any outdoor burning. Currently, 45 counties in Mississippi are under a burn ban, of which 40 are in the partial state-level burn ban under the Governor’s proclamation. No outdoor burning of any kind is permitted under the Governor’s partial state-level burn ban. MFC is continually monitoring conditions and updating the list of counties under a burn ban. To view the list and for more information on burn bans, visit mfc.ms.gov/burn-bans.

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MFC State Forester Russell Bozeman said, “The state is continuing to see extreme drought level conditions and a large number of wildfires. We are asking Mississippians to use caution when doing any outdoor activities, not to do any outdoor burning, and always adhere to burn bans. People who burn during a burn ban are automatically subject to fines.”

MFC dispatches wildland firefighting personnel and equipment to the location of reported wildfire activity 24/7. MFC’s Wildland Firefighters work long hours in dangerous conditions to protect lives, homes, and natural resources. Since August 1, MFC has responded to over 702 fires that have burned over 14,163 acres.

The MFC has recently reassembled the Incident Management Team (IMT) in strategic locations that are close to elevated fire activity areas. The IMT is a collaboration of MFC employees across the state who perform various tasks related to incident response. The IMT trains and responds statewide to disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires.  This activation of the MFC IMT is an important measure to ensure the safety and well-being of Mississippi residents during this period of heightened wildfire risk. By coordinating efforts and resources, the IMT aims to enhance the overall response capabilities and effectively manage the situation. Giachelli says, “We continue to monitor the situations and are planning accordingly. The MFC team is working diligently to handle these wildfires in the best way possible to protect our forest land, people, and structures.” In addition to the IMT, MFC is monitoring the situation closely and possibly bringing in additional resources from other surrounding states if necessary.

Statistically, 9 out of 10 wildfires are human-caused. The MFC encourages caution around ignition sources, such as discarding cigarette butts and parking vehicles over dry grass. If you spot a wildfire, report it immediately by calling 911 and MFC Dispatch at 1-833-MFC-FIRE. Bozeman states, “It only takes one spark or ember to start a wildfire.” The more Mississippians help, the easier it will be to keep people and their homes safe.