Heightened fire alert issued for state

Friday may have been the worst of a critical fire danger, but Northeast Mississippi residents have every reason not to use fire outdoors for the foreseeable future.
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning Friday for all of Mississippi, most of Alabama, and parts of Arkansas and Florida to caution against any outdoor burning.
“Low relative humidity values combined with dry fuels and gusty winds will result in very high fire danger,” the weather service warned in a statement.
Sustained winds Friday measured about 15 mph, with gusts considerably higher.
The Mississippi Forestry Commission on Thursday issued a statewide Wildland Fire Alert.
“The MFC strongly discourages the public from all burning activities until further notice,” the agency said in a statement. “Due to the current drought conditions and the predicted weather pattern for the next week, the fire danger rating for the state will be extremely high.”
Calhoun County residents saw the effects firsthand as firefighters there battled wildfires near Big Creek, Vardaman and Banner on Friday, the very day that authorities there had declared a burn ban.
Union and Pontotoc counties, where burn bans have been in place, are among several counties that have enacted burn bans after weeks of dry weather and numerous fires.
Dispatchers there reported no wildfires by late Friday afternoon.
A total of 34 counties statewide have imposed burn bans, including 13 just on Friday. Calhoun, Chickasaw, Clay, Lee, Marshall, Monroe, Pontotoc and Union counties in Northeast Mississippi are among those with bans in place, and other counties are likely to consider such action on Monday.
The worst of the fire conditions are probably over, said Bill Borghoff, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, but only because winds will be lighter.
“Through next week we expect continued dry conditions,” he said. “We are going to have heightened fire conditions at least until next weekend.”
Even after receiving almost an inch of rain last Saturday, Tupelo’s rainfall was well below normal for the month of September – 1.82 inches, compared to the average of 3.35 inches. August precipitation of 1.86 inches was .81 inches below normal.
Clay County Fire Coordinator Bill Blankenship emphasized that residents should heed burn bans.
“I’d ask them not to burn even if there’s not a ban yet in their county,” he said. “It’s dangerous; nobody needs to burn right now.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal