Countywide burn ban in effect

By CLAY MCFERRIN,

Tallahatchie County is under a countywide burn ban until further notice. Outdoor burning of any kind is prohibited under penalty of law.

The Mississippi Forestry Commission (MFC) on Monday approved the countywide burn ban requested by the Tallahatchie County Board of Supervisors.

Only the MFC and county fire departments are exempt from Tallahatchie County's burn ban.

Campfires, bonfires, fire pits, fire rings, burn barrels, debris burning, field burning and anything else with an open flame that produces an ember is prohibited, noted MFC, because the wind can carry floating embers away from the original fire and start a spot fire up to one-half mile away from the burning area.

Under state law, any person who knowingly and willfully violates a burn ban is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined not less than $100 and not more than $500. Burn bans are enforced by the local sheriff's department.

As of Tuesday evening, 36 of Mississippi's 82 counties had been placed under a burn ban, according to MFC.  Among area counties, Panola and Yalobusha issued burn bans early this week. The complete list of counties is available online at mfc.ms.gov/burn-bans.

MFC State Forester Russell Bozeman said drought conditions and the predicted weather pattern for the next week mean the list of burn bans is expected to continue growing.

"There is a cool front expected to move through portions of the state later this week," he said.  "This front could bring lower humidity and wind, elements that can encourage wildfire growth."

Most areas of the state have received little to no rainfall over the past several weeks, making those areas ripe for wildfires.

According to an MFC press release, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), a scale designed for fire potential assessment, has the state rated above 600, with parts of the state above 700.  The index ranges from zero, the point of no moisture deficiency, to 800, the maximum drought that is possible.

The current KBDI rating for Mississippi indicates that 6 to 7 inches, or more, of rain is needed to bring soil moisture levels back to normal, the MFC press release noted.

Bozeman encouraged deer hunters and others taking to the woods and forests across the state to exercise extreme caution with potential ignition sources, such as discarding cigarette butts and parking vehicles over dry grass.

On Monday, MFC issued a statewide Wildland Fire Alert and encouraged the public to postpone all burning activities until further notice, even in counties where a burn ban has not been imposed.

"Under the current conditions, it only takes one spark or ember to start a devastating wildfire," Bozeman said.