Preventing wildfires in two easy steps - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Preventing wildfires in two easy steps

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By Jay Polk - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - It was a windy day Thursday. To many of us that means that it's time to put on a jacket.  To Forestry Ranger Deanna Pietras it means something else.

"Anytime you have that you have bad, bad burning conditions," she said.

In fact, during the Fall and Winter months the number of wildfires peaks in Georgia.

Pietras said, "as soon as we get the first killing frost you start listening out for it."

And the reason has everything to do with the climate of our area.

"This time of the year the vegetation is dead. The frost and the cold temperatures have killed it back," said Pietras.

With the dry conditions - and with all of that dead vegetation sitting on the ground - fires that break out have plenty of fuel to work with. The results can be devastating. Each year more than 150 homes are lost to wildfires statewide.

Whether you live in a rural are or in town, there are a couple of ways that you can prevent becoming the victim of a wildfire.

The first is something that you mainly see in rural areas. It's called a firebreak. It looks sort of like a shallow ditch with the soil exposed.

"You need to have bare mineral soil. That's the only thing that you can have a good firebreak with. You've got to have something to stop the fire when it gets to there," said Pietras.

The other method is something that you see a lot during these months.  It's the controlled burn. It's a good way to clear off that dead vegetation, but remember:  "it don't matter if it's a small pile like this or if you're burning off 100 acres of woods you still have to call us to get a permit before you light the match," Pietras said.

In fact, if you don't get the permit and your fire gets out of control you can face stiff fines. The Forestry Commission is there to lend a helping hand.

"We may have brochures or pamphlets at the office pertaining to whatever they need to know if not we can get the information to them," Pietras said.

That way, you can enjoy your little slice of South Georgia without worrying about burning down the house.

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