No burn ban called, yetCounty official says nice weather leading to rural field fires
By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News
February weather has been kind to area residents. That means people are trying to shed the effects of cabin fever by getting outside and doing things.
For local farmers, that means getting out and burning noxious weeds, which has led to a number of grass fires in the past two weeks.
Henry County Emergency Management Director Walt Jackson, however, says it might be too early to issue a burn ban in the county.
Jackson said he was meeting with county fire chiefs and firefighters last night on another matter and was sure the talk of recent grass fires would arise.
“For the most part, it would be pretty early for the county to have a burn ban,” Jackson said. “However, we haven’t had a lot of moisture this winter.
“Because the recent weather has been nice, people are getting out and doing things,” Jackson continued. “With the nice weather, farmers are trying to do some burning that they would normally do in March or April. If the forecasted weather holds true this weekend, there will be even more people out doing things and the chances of fires will increase.”
The county emergency management director is the person who makes the request to the state fire marshal for a burn ban. Jackson said he has never had a request denied by the state during his tenure with the county.
He said normally burn bans are instituted in late March or early April but said if this year’s mild weather continues, the burn ban could come earlier. “I don’t see a burn ban being issued in the near future, but if it stays nice (and dry), it will be issued earlier than in the past.”
When considering requesting a burn ban, Jackson said he leans heavily on input from county fire chiefs. “I also look at the vegetation and how brittle it is, how green things are and consider the moisture received recently. I rely heavily on the fire chiefs’ opinions because they are the experts.”
Although it has not been a snowy winter, the county has received a considerable amount of rain this winter. Rain, Jackson said, tends to run off while snow enters the ground. “One of the problems really is the lack of snow,” Jackson noted.
When push comes to shove, Jackson said that many times the decision on whether or not to request a burn ban “is more or less a guesstimate.”