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The MO Department of Conservation warns the state’s residents to make wildfire preparedness part of their home and business maintenance routines. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky reports on the risk of wildfires this time of year.
According to Bill Altman, Forestry Field Programs Supervisor with the MO Department of Conservation, late winter and early spring are MO's fire season. The danger is especially high in the Southwest and West Central parts of the state. Grasslands haven't greened up yet, making it easier for them to catch fire.
"We've had some active fire just in the last few days, that would be here the last week of February but also had a run of fires in that same geographical area for a few days in January when there was some warm weather and low humidities and high winds."
According to Altman, many of the fires were caused by people burning household trash or branches. Some fires were arson...still others were caused by wood stove or fireplace ashes dumped outside while they were still hot.
Of particular concern this year are the layers of ice storm debris in the woods, and this time of year, there are a lot of leaves on the forest floors, as well.
"The leaves are all dropped so we don't have any shading on the forest floor. We have a lot of days with low humidity and high winds, and as the spring progresses and the weather warms, we get higher daytime temperatures, then that becomes perfect conditions for a fire to escape out into the woods."
The extra debris from the ice storms--there's 10 times more woody debris than normal in many areas--means a greater danger for those trying to fight forest fires, especially in Southern Missouri.
"It's more difficult for firefighters to fight those fires because of the heat but also because of the physical barrier that all of these tree branches and limbs and, in some cases, the whole tree was uprooted by the heavy ice storm that we had and so it's just much more difficult for firefighters to build a fuel break around the fire in order to contain it."
Altman says it will take several years for the debris to decay.
Before you burn anything outdoors, you need to be prepared. The Department of Conservation has several publications that offer advice and also information online about how to safely burn outdoors. Visit www.mdc.mo.gov and click on "forestry."
For KSMU news, I'm Michele Skalicky.