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Summer heat leading to burn bans

VIDALIA Under the late, dry summer heat, one often hears residents complain about feeling like they are “burning up,” and some officials are warning that under current conditions the entire area could be a tinderbox.

The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office declared an indefinite burn ban for Catahoula Parish effective Wednesday afternoon.

The parish was one of 32 parishes statewide placed under the ban, and the U.S. Drought Monitor lists Catahoula as being in “moderate drought.”

In Concordia Parish and Adams County, officials say the conditions aren’t so bad as to warrant a burn ban just yet, but the drought monitor classifies the area as “abnormally dry,” and in a warning released Wednesday the National Weather Service advised that “high fire danger conditions would exist in Concordia, Catahoula and Tensas parishes at least through the end of the week.”

According to the NWS, the precipitation monitor in Vidalia recorded only 3.08 inches of rain in June, July and August. The historic average precipitation for that same period — based on data gathered between 1981 and 2010 —is approximately 14.64 inches.

Concordia Parish Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington said he has considered putting a burn ban in place for the parish, but was delaying the decision until after the weekend, when heavy showers are expected to dump two to three inches of rain on the area.

“I talked about it with the Concordia Fire District (No. 2) chief about it, but (while) we are dry right now, it isn’t dry enough that we are going to put a fire ban in place,” Ferrington said.

“If we don’t get the expected rain, come Monday I will do that.”

Adams County Assistant Fire Coordinator Darryl Smith said he knew of no advisory plans from the Mississippi state fire marshal’s office for burn bans, but he still advised residents be careful and avoid unnecessary burning.

“With it being so dry, the best thing is to be careful,” he said. “You might not want to burn trash because when the wind gets blowing, that might make it spread.”

Residents should likewise be careful when discarding matches and cigarette butts, and even when driving cars across fields of dry grass as the heat from the vehicle’s exhaust could be enough to start a blaze.

“Any type of spark or heat source might cause a fire,” Smith said.

Louisiana residents who live in an area under a burn ban could face civil or criminal penalties for violating the order.