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Brush, woods fires down in Lauderdale County

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Aug. 12, 2001
After an extremely wet season, brush and woods fires in Lauderdale County are down about 90 percent from last year but officials urge caution if people burn leaves this fall.
Clarence Butler, Lauderdale County fire coordinator and Emergency Management Agency director, said excessive rainfall this year has drastically reduced the number of brush and woods fires compared to last year when drought conditions persisted throughout the summer.
He said last year's fires raised awareness, which also contributed to a reduction in fires this year.
Butler said lit cigarettes cause the majority of brush fires along the highway and at campsites. Around homes, unattended burning rubbish and leaves often cause brush fires.
Butler said last year's excessive brush and woods fires left long-term damage in some of the county's woodlands. Many half-grown pine trees were damaged.
He said most grassy areas, like those along roadsides, didn't suffer long-term damage because they reseed themselves quickly.
The Mississippi Forestry Commission usually begins prescribed burning during the fall, Butler said, and county residents are likely to begin burning leaves and rubbish to prepare their yards for winter.
Fall is usually the driest time of the year, and last year, county officials issued several burn bans because of the drought.
Butler said he doesn't anticipate burn bans this year. But he said residents should use caution into the spring, when strong winds can shift and cause a fire to get out of control.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.
Fighting fires:
Here are some suggestions from Lauderdale County Fire Coordinator Clarence Butler if you plan to burn leaves and rubbish.
Clean area: Clean off a large area around rubbish or brush piles before igniting them.
Small piles: Keep burn piles as small as possible; make sure you closely monitor all fires.
Watch buildings: Don't burn near homes, sheds or barns; keep a garden hose near the fire.