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Precautions, education prove key in fire safety

As citizens prepare for bonfires and yard cleanup during the summer, authorities warn it is still important to remember fire safety.

Russellville Fire Chief Joe Mansell said summer typically means more grass and wood fires because of the dry weather, but local departments also see more campfires, bonfires and the like getting out of hand.

“With summer coming up, you have lot of people wanting to burn, and we just ask them to be prepared,” Mansell said.

Mansell said he also suggests giving the fire department a warning when they will be burning, so no one calls in a possible structure fire when they see smoke.

“We usually have several emergency calls for a possible structure fire, and we get there, and it is just someone burning something in their back yard,” Mansell said. “If we know that is going on, it can prevent us from making an emergency call.”

Russellville Fire Marshal Justin Green said the state of Alabama only allows natural vegetation to be burned, and it must be at least 500 feet away from any dwelling.

“This means you can burn branches and leaves, for example, but you can’t burn a 2×4,” Green said.

Green said the biggest cause of accidental fires is often either lack of precautions or lack of education on regulations.

“A lot of the time we will have people burning stuff out of their garage, and they might accidentally catch their garage on fire,” Green said, “or they will be burning something too close to trees, and the wind will shift and catch the woods on fire.”

Green said it is important to burn away from anything that could catch fire and make sure not to burn when the winds are up.

It is also important to keep children away from fires, never leave a fire unattended and have an extinguisher or water hose that reaches to the area.

Although it is not necessary to contact the fire department for every burn, Green said he does recommend anyone call 911 if they feel their burn is getting out of hand.

“Please do not hesitate to call,” Green said. “It is so much easier to turn us around if you get everything under control than to get us going if things turn bad.”