Fire Chief: Be mindful when burning

Published 4:00 pm Monday, February 26, 2024

BROOKHAVEN — Lincoln County Volunteer Fire Departments had a busy weekend fighting 21 fires across the county. Winds in excess of 10 mph, dry fuel and low relative humidity points made for a perfect fire storm. 

Ruth, East Lincoln, Bogue Chitto, Zetus, Hog Chain, Loyd Star, Heucks Retreat and New Sight Volunteer Fire Departments worked together this weekend to keep fires contained and protect homes and property. Mississippi Forestry Commission reminds Lincoln County residents that 90 percent of wildfires are caused by human error and thus preventable.

Bogue Chitto Volunteer Fire Department Chief Blake Wallace said people should be mindful when burning and keep burning to a minimum on windy days. 

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“Clean around your brush or trash pile. Stay with the fire and don’t leave it. Have a hose nearby to where it can reach the fire,” Wallace said. “If you do leave a fire go ahead and put it out. We had a few calls where they started a fire, left it and it got rekindled by the wind and spread. If you do a controlled burn or burn a significant sized brush pile, call the sheriff’s office and let them know.” 

Wallace said by letting the sheriff office know about a burn it could then be documented and not called in as an emergency by someone passing by. 

Mississippi Forestry Commission reports they fought 239 fires over the past week for a total of 10,000 acres. The acreage includes active and completely contained or extinguished fires. MFC Outreach Officer Kevin Craft said some of those fires are still active including a fire in Jefferson Davis County which is now at 1,500 acres. Craft serves Region 4 which includes Lincoln, Franklin, Lawrence, Pike, Amite, Wilkinson, Adams, Walthall, Jefferson Davis and Marion Counties in Southwest Mississippi. 

“Until we get significant rainfall we are in a high fire danger scenario,” Craft said. “There is a chance of rain Wednesday and Friday. Right now we are still technically in a slight deficit for rain. An escaped fire could get out of hand quickly.” 

A couple of weeks ago it was hard to get any fire to start let alone burn. Craft said it doesn’t take long for south Mississippi to dry out and the low humidity and winds have made conditions favorable for wildfires. 

Fighting wildfires

March is wildfire prevention month and often the spring is one of the busiest times of year for firefighters. All it takes is one spark to cause a wildfire and people should be careful to not burn on windy days. 

The National Weather Service in Jackson forecasts Tuesday to have sustained wind speeds reaching 20 to 25 mph. Gusts could reach up to 30 and 40 mph tomorrow. Weak trees and tree limbs may fall with the strong winds. Do not attempt to burn Tuesday. 

One way to prevent fires is to not burn trash without a fire break or container to contain the fire. Once fire hits pine straw or dry grass it can get out of hand quickly. If you do decide to burn a brush pile or a pile of leaves make sure you check the wind forecast before you burn. 

Smokey Bear always says, “Only you can prevent wildfires.” 

Volunteers are needed at Bogue Chitto and likely the other county volunteer fire departments. All a person has to do to join a VFD is contact the Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency office or their local Volunteer Fire Department. Wallace said volunteers are needed for more than actively fighting fires. 

“We are in need of volunteers, that is another thing that could help our suppression efforts. More people can get involved from the community,” Wallace said.”We need firefighters and we need people who are willing to learn how to drive and operate the pump trucks. IT would be a huge help especially during the work week.”