Dry weather creates fire risk

Published 6:16 pm Friday, June 3, 2011

FLAMES ENGULF a pine plantation in remote southeastern Georgia, which has been beset in recent months by numerous large-scale brush fires consuming hundreds, even thousands, of acres of swamp land, forest and fields. Near-drought conditions throughout South Georgia have led fire officials to urge citizens to take precautions to help prevent or lessen the risk of brush fires starting.

Fire authorities say a severe drought is expected to persist this summer, raising the risk of wildfire and posing a threat to property and lives.

The City of Bainbridge is not currently issuing outdoor burn permits due to the dry conditions. Residents within city limits should call the BPS Fire Department at 248-2032 before burning.

The Georgia Forestry Commission, which oversees burn permits in unincorporated areas, is currently not issuing burn permits for the same reason. As of June 2, the fire danger rating for the corner of Southwest Georgia is classified as being between “high” and “extreme.”

Email newsletter signup

Four brush fires broke out in Decatur County on Thursday alone: On U.S. 27 South, Georgia 97 South near Bainbridge, on Breedlove Road and on Jacksontown Road.

The brush fire on Breedlove Road, located off Georgia 253 South, started due to an unoccupied trailer home catching on fire, according to Decatur County Fire and Rescue. In addition to the trailer being destroyed, flames caught about two acres of grass on fire. The cause of the structure fire was undetermined.

The fire on Jacksontown Road, located between Faceville and Fowlstown, started around 5:30 p.m. and caught approximately 10 acres on fire. County and volunteer firefighters were assisted by the Forestry Commission in putting out the fire over the course of more than an hour.

The fire on Georgia 97 South happened in the early afternoon when wind whipped a piece of insulation off of a semi-trailer truck, BPS Fire Chief Dennis Mock said. The insulation fell onto a power line, causing sparks, and when the insulation fell to the ground, it ignited the  very dry grass off the highway.

With such dry conditions, even something like a cigarette butt thrown onto the ground could start a fire, Mock said.

Tips for preventing brush fires

Even when issuance burn permits resumes, fire officials are asking that precautions be taken.

Cleaning flammable materials from a 30-foot barrier around the home is extremely important, Mock said.

Anything that could serve as fuel for a fire should be cleaned up, including yard debris, firewood, gas tanks and pine and leaf litter. Barbecue grills, lawnmowers and fireworks are also possible sources of ignition and should be used carefully.

“The number one cause of wildfire is escaped debris burning,” said Troy Floyd, incident management team commander with the Forestry Commission. “When weather conditions are appropriate, burn permits for hand piled natural vegetation are issued online at GaTrees.org.”

Permits for machine piled or area burns can be obtained by contacting a local office of the Georgia Forestry Commission, he said.

For more information about fire safety and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit GaTrees.org. To see the updated fire weather forecast, visit http://weather.gfc.state.ga.us/

THE ARABIA BAY WILDFIRE, named after a peat bog swamp in Southeast Georgia’s Clinch County, has been burning off and on since November 2010.