Fire outbreaks prompt safety warnings

Published 3:55 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Georgia Forestry Commission has issued a safety alert for landowners in southern Georgia, following a recent outbreak of wheat field fires near Plains, Ga.

“Weather conditions are hot, dry and windy, just when it’s wheat harvest time,” said Greg Findley, district manager for the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Flint District. “That’s a dangerous combination that has led to several fires and the evacuation of 30 homes yesterday. We’re asking everyone to be extremely cautious and to immediately call us for help if a fire gets out of control on their property.”

Findley explained that following harvest, wheat farmers often burn the agricultural debris in preparation for the next planting. Those fires can easily get out of control, he said. In addition, hot farm equipment, such as combines, may spark blazes that can quickly destroy the vehicle and rapidly fuel wildfires.

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“It’s so dry now, it only takes one spark to get away and cause a dangerous fire,” said Findley. “It’s important that field workers have a water source on hand at all times, and if fire breaks out, leave immediately and call for help.”

Findley recommended harrowing behind a harvest, which turns the wheat underground and reduces the risk of fire.

Initiating a fire brings on considerable responsibility and under current conditions should be avoided where alternative practices exist, Findley advised. At a minimum, notification of intent to burn to the local GFC is required by law and burn permits are required for non-agricultural type burns. Good firebreaks should be in place and burns must be closely monitored. To check for burn permit availability go to

“It’s been a very busy fire season, and it doesn’t show any signs of changing,” said Findley. “Two large fires are continuing to burn south of us near the Okefenokee. We need everyone to be extremely cautious and to never attempt do-it-yourself firefighting. Keeping safety top of mind will help protect people and property during this unstable time.”

For more information about fire safety and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit