March is Wildfire Prevention Month and since Jan. 1, 2017 the Mississippi Forestry Commission has responded to 776, burning over 16,000 acres of land. Just this week, Yazoo City, Choctaw and Leak Counties were all hit with wildfires. The three fires burned over 600 acres of land collectively.
“Nationwide, 9 out of 10 wildfires are human-caused, which means 9 out of 10 wildfires could have been prevented with proper care. Wildfire prevention month allows us to highlight the responsibility of Mississippi’s citizens to help protect lives, homes, and forestland by focusing on how to prevent wildfires. Here in the south those human-caused wildfires are often unintentional – campfire, debris burn, etc. that got out of control and turned into a wildfire.”
You’re most likely to see more wildfires in conditions like low humidity, high wind, dry vegetation, and seasonal transitions.
The MFC is offering you a few tips to make sure you’re doing your part to prevent widlfires:
- Check the local weather forecast – do not engage in any outdoor burning on dry, windy days.
- If the purpose of the burn is agriculture or forestry related, call the MFC Central Dispatch Center for your area to obtain a burning permit.
- Always find out if there is a burn ban in your area before doing any outdoor recreational burning. To see a list of burn bans, click here.
- Check local laws and city ordinances in your area to make sure outdoor recreational burning is allowed.
- Choose a safe burn site – the ground around the burn site should be surrounded by gravel or dirt and clear of vegetation that could catch fire (minimum of 10 feet in all directions).
- Only burn untreated wood debris (waste, plastic, rubber tires, and other manufactured products may not be burned). Click here to view the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality standards regarding outdoor burning.
- Keep campfires small and never leave an outdoor fire unattended.
- Always have water on hand to put out the fire and stay until it has been completely extinguished.
- When homes are near wooded areas, prescribed (or controlled) burning can be utilized responsibly by a Certified Burn Manager to reduce fuel for wildfires. Prescribed burning clears underbrush and other flammable vegetation that builds up on the forest floor. A burning permit from the MFC is required for this activity. To learn more about becoming a Certified Burn Manager, click here.
- Make Firewise preparations to help defend your home in the event of a wildfire. The Firewise program equips homeowners and community leaders with the information they need to help design, construct, landscape, and maintain homes and communities to better withstand wildfires. To learn more about how to have a Firewise home, click here.
- To report a wildfire, dial 911 or call the Central Dispatch Center for your area:
- Northwest Region: 1-877-226-5414
- Northeast Region: 1-800-681-8760
- Southwest Region: 1-888-823-3473
- South Central Region: 1-800-736-9115
- Southeast Region: 1-800-240-5161
“7 7 percent of Mississippi’s forestland is privately owned by 350,000 landowners. Often these are family tree farms passed down from generation to generation and service as long-term investment,” said Forester.
This year, Mississippi has already had two wildfire related deaths. In Moss Point, 81-year-old Willie Cunningham died in a Moss Point brush fire. He was burning brush on his land when the wind picked up and the fire got out of control. He was taken to USA Medical Center in Alabama, but died of his injuries.
The Bassfield Fire Department Chief Bill Matthews also passed away in February, while working a brush fire in Jefferson Davis County. The coroner said he had a massive heart attack while working.
For more information on how cleanup begins after a wildfire visit HERE.