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MDC encourages common sense to prevent wildfires

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Each year, thousands of acres of forest and prairie land is lost to wildfires that could be prevented. These fires  can erupt at any time of year, both day and night from a variety of causes, including arson, lightning and most frequently from burning debris.

Each year, thousands of acres of forest and prairie land is lost to wildfires that could be prevented. These fires can erupt at any time of year, both day and night from a variety of causes, including arson, lightning and most frequently from burning debris.

Main cause of wildfires is improper burning of debris such as trash and brush piles.

JEFFERSON CITY – A combination of strong winds, low humidity, dry conditions, and warming temperatures this time of year has the potential for unexpected wildfires. Each year, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) staff work with fire departments around the state to help suppress thousands of wildfires that can consume tens-of-thousands of acres.

According to MDC’s Forestry Division, the main cause of wildfires is improper burning of debris such as trash and brush piles. The Department urges landowners, hunters, campers, and others in the outdoors to help prevent wildfires and offers the following tips.

Outdoor Burning

Do not conduct outdoor burning during times when grasses, brush and other fire fuel are very dry, humidity is low and weather is windy. Dry fuel combined with high temperatures, low humidity and high winds make fire nearly impossible to control. Check with local fire departments regarding burn bans that may be in place. A person who starts a fire for any reason is responsible for any damage it may cause. For more information on using prescribed fire as a land-management tool, visit www.mdc.mo.gov and search “Prescribed Fire.”
Driving Off Road

Wildfires can start when fine, dry fuel such as grass comes in contact with catalytic converters on motor vehicles.
Think twice before driving into and across a grassy field. Never park over tall, dry grass or piles of leaves that can touch the underside of a vehicle. When driving vehicles off road, regularly inspect the undercarriage to ensure that fuel and brake lines are intact and no oil leaks are apparent. Always carry an approved fire extinguisher on vehicles that are used off road.
Check for the presence of spark arresters on ATV exhausts.

Making a Campfire

  • Clear a generous zone around fire rings. When humidity is low and wind is high, debris can become tinder for a stray spark or ember.
  • Store unused firewood a good distance from the fire.
  • Never use gasoline, kerosene, or other flammable liquid to start a fire.
  • Keep campfires small and controllable.
  • Keep fire-extinguishing materials, such as a rake, shovel and bucket of water, close by.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended! Extinguish campfires each night and before leaving camp, even for a few moments.
  • Smokers: Practice Extra Caution
  • Extinguish cigarettes completely and safely and dispose of butts responsibly.
  • Call 911 at the first sign of a fire getting out of control.

Report Forest Arson

Many wildfires are set by vandals. you can help stop arson by calling Operation Forest Arson at 800-392-1111. Callers will remain anonymous and rewards are possible.

In cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, MDC provided nearly $390,000 in grants to 184 volunteer fire departments last year for protective clothing, equipment, and training. The Department also obtained more than $5 million in equipment from federal government programs for volunteer fire departments in the state, and provided wildland fire-suppression training to more than 400 Missouri firefighters.

For more information on preventing wildfires, go online to mdc.mo.gov/your-property/fire/wildfire-prevention.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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