Officials seek burn bans, urge fireworks safety

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

The extreme heat has officials scrambling to put burn bans on the books and urging Northeast Mississippians to exercise caution with their Fourth of July fireworks fun.
With record-setting temperatures and no rain in the forecast, Stacy Lewis of the Mississippi Forestry Commission said the agency processed burn bans for Tippah and Pontotoc counties Friday and expects to process more on Monday. The Lee County Board of Supervisors will consider requesting a ban on Monday.
Tippah County’s ban remains in effect until July 29 and does not apply to individuals shooting fireworks, County Fire Coordinator Randy Stewart said. Supervisors requested the ban at the request of area firefighters. Due to extremely dry conditions in the county, several fire departments have been dispatched to fight grass fires recently.
“In dry conditions such as we are experiencing now it doesn’t take very much to start a fire that can lead to a real disaster,” said State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney in a news release Friday.
Lewis said the burn bans will not prohibit individuals from shooting fireworks but they do urge everyone to use caution.
“When weather conditions are like this we do get more fires around July 4 because there is an increase in outdoor activity,” Lewis said. “Be careful with your barbecue grills. Keep the area around it wet so embers don’t light the ground.”
Fireworks are allowed in Lee County and its municipalities, except for Tupelo.
“We just said a few years ago that we won’t allow it,” said Jimmy Avery, Tupelo’s assistant fire chief. “People shoot them toward houses and the next thing you know there is a house on fire. We try to eliminate as many hazards as we can with that.”
While fireworks at home aren’t allowed in Tupelo, Parks and Recreation will put on a big fireworks display July 4 at Ballard Park. In the past, even when there is a burn ban, the fireworks show has gone on.
Shannon Police Chief Desiree Kershner said her unit will patrol to make sure everyone is being safe with their fireworks.
Saltillo Assistant Chief Prentiss Brown said they would do the same.
“We hope people use common sense and cut them off before everyone goes to bed,” Brown said.
Hank Wiesner contributed to this report. jb.clark@journalinc.com