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Mississippi Forestry Commission urges public to be fire aware in current dry conditions

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Field fire
Field fire on Freetown Road (July 21, 2023): Photo by David Day

From the Mississippi Forestry Commission:

The Mississippi Forestry Commission (MFC) is calling on all residents to exercise caution and be fire aware as the state continues to experience extreme temperatures and dry conditions. The MFC closely monitors the weather and uses the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) to assess the risk of fire. The KBDI is approaching well above 600 in areas across the state, which is elevated.

The KBDI attempts to measure the amount of precipitation necessary to return the soil to full field capacity. The index ranges from zero, the point of no moisture deficiency, to 800, the maximum drought that is possible, and represents a moisture regime from 0 to 8 inches of water through the soil layer. At 8 inches of water, the KBDI assumes saturation.  At any point along the scale, the index number indicates the amount of net rainfall that is required to reduce the index to zero, or saturation. Click here for more info on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index.

With the potential for increased wildfires, the MFC is working diligently to prevent and combat potential threats. While there has been a slight uptick in fires across the state, no significant increases have been reported thus far. However, the combination of elevated temperatures, dry conditions, and wind can create an environment conducive to wildfires. The MFC did approve three burn bans in Lawrence, Walthall, and Amite counties this week (visit www.mfc.ms.gov to see full details of burn bans).  It is crucial for everyone to take necessary precautions to prevent the outbreak of fires.

“Wildfire prevention is of utmost importance, especially during these dry and hot conditions,” said Randy Giachelli, Mississippi Fire Chief for the Mississippi Forestry Commission. “By following a few simple guidelines, we can significantly reduce the risk of wildfires and protect our communities.”

The MFC advises residents to:

  • Refrain from burning any items on hot, dry, and windy days.
  • Obey any burn bans or local notices.
  • Remember that nearly 9 out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans.
  • Campfires left unattended, careless discarding of smoking materials, hot ashes and BBQ coals, and operating equipment that throws sparks are the primary causes of human-related wildfires.

To ensure the safety of all Mississippians, the MFC urges immediate reporting of any wildfires. If you spot a wildfire, please call 911.

“It’s always fire season somewhere in the U.S., and every region of the country can be susceptible to wildfires,” added Giachelli. “While prescribed fires are necessary in some ecosystems and are executed by professionals, we also focus on preventing unwanted, human-caused wildfires.”

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