Burn bans now in effect
By Jeremy Weldon
Following the lead of state officials and the advice of the Mississippi Forestry Commission, both Panola County and the City of Batesville passed ordinances this week enacting burn bans until the month-long drought ends.
Most of the state hasn’t received soaking rain for more than 45 days, and MFC officials said this week that most areas need 6-7 inches of rain in a four-day period before forests and grassy fields will be safe from an elevated threat of wildfire.
During the ban, almost every type of open-flame is prohibited in outdoor settings. Burn barrels, fire rings, bonfires, and any type of controlled burning is not allowed. Residents may still cook over contained fires in home grills, provided no charcoals coals are dumped on the ground.
Fines for violating the burn ban are not especially steep – generally ranging from $100 to $500 dollars, but a great deal of potential liability looms for people who light fires that burn out of control and cause damage.
In those situations, state law provides means to recoup damages caused not only by the flames of an illegally set fire, but also the smoke from the fire. Smoke from fires near roads and highways have obscured drivers’ vision and caused serious, sometimes fatal, accidents.
Because of the danger to property, and citizens’ health, state bodies and boards recommend and pass the ordinances when conditions on the ground and in the atmosphere reach a level of danger, based on the frequency of reported fires and the behavior of individual fires during dry days.
Some fires are started by machinery under normal operating conditions, and some by sparks from wheels on pavement when highway blow-outs occur, but the majority are intentionally set by people who lose control on dry, windy days.
Lighted cigarettes thrown from vehicles are often the source of grass fires on roadways whenever conditions turn extremely dry. Locally, firefighters and deputies have asked that anyone observing smoke quickly make a report to E-911 so trained personnel can determine the source and whether it is an illegal fire.
Because of the drought, fires burn hotter and spread faster, and response time is critical to containing any outdoor flames.
The state issued ban supersedes all others passed by counties and municipalities, but it’s not uncommon for local boards to pass separate bans, no matter the size of their town or village. Crenshaw Mayor Oscar Barlow and his board passed a similar ordinance earlier in the week.