Simple sparks from tractors have ignited several large fires this week. As many farmers burn their fields, dry, windy conditions make that job dangerous.
Flames licked at the sides of Haley Byne Farms fields, just off Mayhaw Road in Lee County. Thick clouds of black smoke could be seen from a mile away as farmers burn off their wheat fields. It's a careful process especially in these dry conditions.
"We put a good sufficient break around the fields and we back burn real good to take as many measurements as we can in these dry conditions," said Haley Byne Farms Manager Trent Bone.
Because of the conditions manager Trent Bone told us someone is always watching the field and they notify both the Forestry Commission and firefighters before they start.
"We make sure that we've got a hire here and maybe a couple of tractors in case it does jump out and we make sure, we keep going around the field to make sure it doesn't jump out."
Lee County Firefighters say that's the right thing to do. They've been slammed over the last week with as many as 25 calls for grass and farm related fires.
"We've had two combines catch on fire from the bearings overheating and catching the wheat on fire which caught the combine on fire," said Lt. Ricky Thompson of theLee County Fire Department.
They say the smallest spark from a car that's had its tire flattened can start a fire that can quickly get out of control.
"It doesn't have to be a match or light or anything, just the smallest spark will start anything because everything is just so dead and dry it just catches on fire, really really easy," Thompson said.
Which is why they're cautioning everyone with the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, to be careful grilling outside and to think twice about adding fireworks to their celebrations.
Firefighters also suggest wetting down the area around your grill before lighting it this Memorial Day weekend. Coming up tonight at 7:00 on WALB ABC we're digging deeper into these dry conditions to tell you what kind of monetary impact they're having and what it could be costing you.
The Georgia Forestry Commission had to shift a lot of resources to Ware County when a large wildfire started there last night.
It's burned more than 4,000 acres and isn't contained. The Forestry Commission says we're at risk of a similar fire in our area.
The Georgia Forestry Commission issued the following statement Thursday-
The Georgia Forestry Commission has issued a safety alert for landowners in southern Georgia, following an outbreak of wheat field fires near Plains, GA.
"Weather conditions are hot, dry and windy, just when it's wheat harvest time," said Greg Findley, District Manager for the Georgia Forestry Commission's Flint District. "That's a dangerous combination that has led to several fires and the evacuation of 30 homes yesterday. We're asking everyone to be extremely cautious and to immediately call us for help if a fire gets out of control on their property."
Findley explained that following harvest, wheat farmers often burn the agricultural debris in preparation for the next planting. Those fires can easily get out of control, he said. In addition, hot farm equipment, such as combines, may spark blazes that can quickly destroy the vehicle and rapidly fuel wildfires.
"It's so dry now, it only takes one spark to get away and cause a dangerous fire," said Findley. "It's important that field workers have a water source on hand at all times, and if fire breaks out, leave immediately and call for help."
Findley recommended harrowing behind a harvest, which turns the wheat underground and reduces the risk of fire. Initiating a fire brings on considerable responsibility and under current conditions should be avoided where alternative practices exist, Findley advised.
At a minimum, notification of intent to burn to the local GFC is required by law and burn permits are required for non-agricultural type burns. Good firebreaks should be in place and burns must be closely monitored.
"It's been a very busy fire season, and it doesn't show any signs of changing," said Findley. "Two large fires are continuing to burn south of us near the Okefenokee. We need everyone to be extremely cautious and to never attempt do-it-yourself firefighting. Keeping safety top of mind will help protect people and property during this unstable time."
For more information about fire safety and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit www.GaTrees.org.
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