BiographyWith March generally being the windiest month of the year, Delta farmers should remain alert to safe methods for burning farmland.
Gov. Phil Bryant has declared March Wildfire Prevention Month due to it being one the state's highest wildfire occurrence months — but it's not just wildfires that pose the threat.
In 2011, 98.7 percent of all the fires in Mississippi were caused by humans or were preventable.
Bolivar County Volunteer Fire Department Chief Lee Tedder said staying up-to-date on best practices is a good way to avoid unnecessary damage.
Unfortunately, field fires are often are mismanaged, creating more work for the already busy fire department.
"It's really all about common sense," said Tedder. "People need to be mindful of the different elements.
"One problem is that people aren’t always watching the fires or attending them to make sure they don't get out of hand. A field fire should never be left unattended."
Tedder said one of the greatest precautions is burning when the winds are low or consistently blowing in one direction.
"Farmers are responsible if smoke blows across the highway and disrupts traffic," he said. "This has happened in the past and caused serious accidents.
"Sometimes people aren't prepared for how quickly the wind can change and then they have to call for help."
Establishing efficient firebreaks also helps create a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a fire.
Another step in the process is making sure permits are properly obtained.
Anyone conducting a timber or agricultural burn is advised to get a permit from the Mississippi Forestry Commission prior to burning.
The local Central Dispatch Center should be contacted to inquire about the permit. Bolivar Countians should call 1-877-226-5414.
The following information will be required: type of burning (agriculture or forestry); number of acres; landowner name and person responsible for the fire; address and telephone number; location of property; and beginning and end date and time of fire.
In conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the MFC issues burning permits based on the daily fire weather forecast.
"The two main atmospheric conditions we look at are wind speed and mixing height," said Russell Bozeman, MFC director of Forest Protection and Forest Information.
"Most of the problems we have with fires are associated with smoke, not the flames," added Bozeman. "That's why looking at wind conditions is so important.
"Permits are designed to be administered based on smoke dispersal conditions."
Bozeman recommended that anyone preparing for a controlled burn should read the Smoke Management Guidelines found on the MFC website at www.mfc.ms.gov/wildfirecontrol.php#v.
Cleveland Volunteer Fire Department Inspector Gene Bishop said the problem is bigger outside of Cleveland due to the ban of open fires within city limits.
"The city created an ordinance in 1962 banning open burning in Cleveland," said Bishop. "It's not a big problem for us as long as people abide to the ordinance."
For detailed information and fire preparedness, visit the MFC website or Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MSForestryCommission.
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