Numerous Mississippi counties issue burn bans

JACKSON — More than a dozen Mississippi counties have issued burn bans to prevent uncontrolled fires as much of the state bakes in unusually dry weather.

Among counties with burn bans are: Attala, Chickasaw, Clay, DeSoto, Forrest, Grenada, Hinds, Kemper, Lauderdale, Lee, Monroe, Panola, Pontotoc, Rankin and Tate.

Many of the bans were issued for 30 days. Other counties are considering similar bans.

“Because the conditions are very dry outside and the humidity is low, it’s the prime recipe for fire to spread,” said Tommy Steen, fire coordinator for Rankin County’s Emergency Operations Center.

Rankin County has had 45 grass or forest fires in less than two weeks.

The National Weather Service has predicted the relative humidity values to range from 20 to 25 percent and expect wind gusts from 15 to 25 mph. Those condition are favorable for the rapid spread of fire, endangering surrounding land and buildings.

Last month was the driest September since 1956. The Jackson metro area received 0.04 inches of rain, and dry weather is predicted for the first half of October.

“It’s a continuation of what we have been getting,” National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Agre said.

Agre said the parched climate can be attributed to the lack of tropical activity in the Gulf of Mexico this year. Most tropical systems jogged up the Atlantic coast.

“Wilmington, N.C., has had 20 inches in the past four days,” Agre said. “They’ve been getting it all.”

The arid weather is a stark contrast to August, which netted 8 inches of rainfall, 4.5 inches above average.

Hinds County emergency director Jimmie Lewis said the burn ban there was necessary to curb a spike of fires in unincorporated areas of the county.

Most fires start when people burn debris, Steen said.

“In this weather, it takes a quick second and it gets away from you,” Steen said. “I’ve seen fires move across some fields faster than you can run.”

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The Associated Press

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