Musgrove bans outdoor burning statewide

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2000

AP and staff reports

Natchez Fire Commander Robert Eidt shouted &uot;hallelujah&uot; Friday when he heard Gov. Ronnie Musgrove had issued a statewide ban on outdoor burning. &uot;This is almost as good news as telling me I hit the lottery,&uot; Eidt said. &uot;You have just made my day.&uot;

Musgrove declared a State of Emergency Friday because dry, windy conditions have created an extreme fire danger across the state.

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Hopefully if it is enforced &uot;it will save us a lot of grief, wear and tear and expense,&uot; Eidt said.

According to the Mississippi Forestry Commission, wildfire activity is well above average for this time of year.

Weather conditions have been running firefighters ragged across the state and are not expected to improve any time soon.

”We are not out of this yet. Normally, March and April are the worst months for wildfires,” said State Forester James Sledge ”The danger is not just to woodlands but also houses and other structures.”

In Adams County alone, Natchez Fire Chief Gary Winborne reported 34 wildfires within the past month. And 20 of those fires have occurred since Monday.

&uot;That’s much higher than average,&uot; he said.

Usually the fire department responds to no more than 12 wildfires at this time of year.

The ban should reduce the risk to people or buildings and also means less wear on firefighters and equipment, Winborne said.

&uot;If we can get people to heed (the ban)&uot; it will help, he said.

State forestry officials and Musgrove issued the statewide ban, citing damage to nearly 22,000 acres since Feb. 1 and rainfall amounts 12 inches less than normal.

Sledge said nearly half of the wildfires were the result of outside burning, while a large percentage of the others were deliberately set.

Sledge said the Forestry Commission would lift the ban once conditions improve.

He said campers should be particularly careful if they must use campfires.

”This is a total ban on outside burning,” he said. ”This is not something that is going away in a few days.”

Sledge said despite weather forecasts for rain, it would take more than 10 inches over several days to give the state relief.

The Forestry Commission said the southeastern part of the state had 35 percent of the fires, followed by the southwest with 25 percent and the south-central with 20 percent.

Since July 1, 1999, Sledge said there had been more than 5,000 fires that destroyed more than 56,000 acres.