South Georgia sees fair share of wildfires - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia sees fair share of wildfires

June 6, 2006

Albany--Parts of south Georgia are under a red Flag Warning tonight. That means a serious danger of wildfires. Even in areas not included in that warning, the danger is elevated.

This afternoon, a forest fire scorched sixty acres of land near Highway 76 in Berrien County. It took five fire departments and the forestry commission more than two hours to contain it. Firefighters say if they hadn't stopped it when they did, it would have threatened homes.

In the past three days, Forestry Commission rangers responded to 87 wildfires statewide. Forty-six of them burned just yesterday in the district that includes sixteen southwest Georgia counties. Statewide, 413 acres have burned so far this week.

In Albany this afternoon, contractors with Barfield Construction were clearing land and burning debris when the fire there simply got out of control.

Fire experts say it can happen easily, especially when weather conditions are working against you.

Albany Firefighters wasted no time putting out this evening fire that initially started out small.

"Conditions here were about thirty feet of flames and relatively heavy smoke," says fire safety inspector Eugene Anderson.  He says fires happen more often thanks to the recent hot weather.

"There's been a lot of grass fires, there's been a lot of brush fires," he says.  Dry weather, mixed with wind, and dead debris make the conditions perfect for controlled burns to get out of control.

"Under conditions where we haven't had ran for several days, just don't do it," he says.

"You have to call your county unit to do any outside burning, that's a state law, your county forestry unit," says Chuck Norvell, with the Forestry Commission. 

To burn, even in your own yard, you have to first obtain a permit. Once you do that, monitoring the fire is a must.

"Stay with the fire. It's kind of like watching a pot boiling over as soon as you leave that fire, and there's still smoke, then there's still heat there, so it can still get out," he says.

 Norvell says when the humidity is low and the wind is high, fires can spread quickly "Under the right conditions, just a little ember, even from a cigarette, can start a fire," he says.

And Anderson knows that from experience.  "You get enough radiant heat and it can travel very fast," says Anderson.

When burning, he says be prepared at all times. "They need to have a hose ready and charged," says Anderson.

 By doing so, you can prevent fires from get out of hand to begin with.

Fire experts also suggest that if you do have permission to burn, that you avoid burning wet piles. Moisture in that pile will produce more smoke than usual and can make it difficult for you to see as well as for others nearby.

Burning without a permit is a misdemeanor and you can be fined.

Feedback: news@walb.com?Subject=FireSafety

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