Forest Service maps wildfire risk for Mississippi

Published 1:12 pm Wednesday, June 5, 2024

BROOKHAVEN — According to a United States Forest Service study, Lincoln County has a high risk of wildfires. The risk is higher than 75 percent of the counties in the US and 82 percent of counties in Mississippi. 

Wildfire risk was measured by determining a county’s likelihood and intensity of fire (hazard) times exposure and susceptibility (vulnerability.) Simulations and geospatial data helped calculate the risk.

The United States Forest Service mapped the risk for wildfires and how management can reduce the risk in a story map. Readers may think of the large acres of wildfire in California but not the threat in Mississippi. 

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The Mississippi Forestry Commission fought 1,070 wildfires which burned 19,803 acres in 2023 and saved 1,541 homes. Drought conditions last summer and fall caused wildfires to be a weekly event in southwest Mississippi including areas of Lincoln County. 

Wildfire likelihood, the probability of a wildfire burning in any given year, in Lincoln County on average is 79 percent greater than other counties in the US. Residents can work to prevent wildfire ignitions and treat hazardous fuels to reduce likelihood according to the USFS. 

Lincoln County Volunteer Firefighters and the Mississippi Forestry Commission respond to wildfires and grass fires in the county. Contact the Lincoln County Emergency Management office or your local Volunteer Fire Department to learn about how you can help your community. 

Risk to homes

According to a USFS map detailing wildfire risk, 20,831 buildings in Lincoln County are at a direct exposure risk, meaning homes could be ignited by adjacent flammable vegetation as well as indirect sources, in wildfires. Direct exposure accounts for 84 percent of buildings in Lincoln County with the majority of those homes located outside of city limits. 

Residents can take active steps to protect their homes in the event of a wildfire. 

  • Make homes ignition-resistant
  • Have a 5-foot noncombustible zone around homes
  • Apply land use planning strategies
  • Reduce hazardous fuels to modify fire behavior
  • Create defensible spaces to help anchor wildfire response activities

Several grass fires and wildfires in Lincoln County last year were caused by residents burning trash, some of those fires occurred while the county was under a burn ban.