HOUSTON – The recent spate of freezing weather has killed grass and plants and made them the perfect tinder for a wildfire.
Chickasaw County Fire Coordinator Jonathan Blankenship is urging property owners not to burn outside until the countryside greens back up in the spring.
“We had a fire up in Houlka on Friday morning,” said Blankenship. “A pretty day comes along and people want to burn leaves or a pile of trash. The wind gets in it and the first thing you know is you have a wildfire.”
Blankenship reminded property owners they are liable for any damage they cause to adjacent property from a fire they started.
“It’s not that hard to figure out where a wildfire starts,” said Blankenship. “If your trashfire ends up burning down a shed or a house, you are responsible.”
Blankenship said wind is usually the key factor in a serious wildife.
“People walk on the ground and it feels wet and they think it is safe to burn,” said Blankenship. “What happens is the wind dries the debris just off the ground. Once the fire gets going the wind picks it up and you have a wildfire in just a matter of seconds.”
In 2012 Chickasaw County ranked 66 among Mississippi’s 82 counties for wildfire.
Chickasaw County does not issue fire permits for residential fires. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Mississippi Forestry Commission do issue burn permits based on the daily fire weather forecast. These state permits are required for any fire set for a recognized agricultural and/or forestry purpose and can be obtained by calling 1-800-681-8790.
Blankenship said there are ways to prevent a wildfire.
“I’ve always told people my job is to put myself out of business,” he explained. “Preventing a fire is a lot easier than fighting it.”
Blankenship offered these tips to reduce the damage of wildfire.
• Clear a 30-foot no-burn, buffer zone around your house or barn. Nothing more than close-cropped grass should grow in this zone.
• Clear a 100 foot defense zone around your property. Large fuel sources such as debris, bushes and down trees should be pushed out of this area.
• Clean your gutters. Sparks and firebrands collect in gutters and ignite leaves found there.
• Fireproof decks and fences. Be prepared to tear them down if wildfire threaten. Wildfires can travel down fence line or onto decks bringing flames into contact with your house.
• Homes on stilts or piers should be screened to prevent fire from getting under the house.
• Control burn on a regular basis but with great care. Controlled burns are the optimum way to reduce the intensity of a wildfire. “Controlled burns” by untrained people are also one of the main causes of wildfire.
• Keep firefighting equipment handy. A hose hooked up to a ready water supply is a major weapon as are shovels, rakes and hoes.
• Make it easy for professional fire crews and heavy equipment to get on your property. Bridges and even wet, low areas can stop a fire truck or bulldozer from getting to the fire.