Wildfires can be blamed on property owners

Wildfires can be blamed on property owners

9 March 2009

published by www.leadercall.com

USA — Crunching leaves under one’s feet may be a good reminder that it wouldn’t take much for a small debris fire to explode into a raging wildfire.

March has been proclaimed as Wildfire Prevention Month, and local officials said the timing is perfect. Conditions in Jones County are extremely favorable for fires getting out of control because of a lack of rainfall, low humidity, and gusting winds.

Jones County Fire Coordinator Dan McKenna said the county is 42-percent below normal on rainfall already this year. Over the past few weeks, he said, wildfires have already resulted in the loss of several structures and dozens of acres.

Jimmy Mordica, director of conservation education and public outreach for the Mississippi Forestry Commission, said March is traditionally the worst month for wildfires because there are still a lot of leaves and brush on the ground from the fall and winter and nothing is there to stop flames from spreading.

“Nothing has greened up yet,” Mordica said. “These warm days give people Spring fever and their clearing fence rows, pond dams, gardens, their yards.”

Wildfires that stay on the person’s own property are taken care of by fire departments and the Mississippi Forestry Commission.

“If they start a wildfire and it stays on their property, forestry will fight it for no charge. That’s part of their property taxes.”

But, he said, if the wildfire spreads to a neighboring property, the person who set the fire can be held liable for damage to timber, buildings, and even houses. Mordica said that happened last year near the Jones – Forrest County line when a wildfire burned 40 acres of pines and a house.

Mordica said people should not burn anything on windy days. He also offered the following tips:

• Clear flammable vegetation up to 30 feet away from your house. You can leave some trees as long as their branches are 10 feet apart from other trees.

• Eliminate ladder fuels by mowing tall grass, trimming shrubs, and pruning lower branches as described above.

• Keep the lawn watered and mowed short (3 inches or less) on all sides of all buildings.

Clean the roof, gutters, and windowsills of leaves, needles, and other debris.

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