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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Dry weather causing concerns

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Sikeston Department of Public Safety firefighters James Ash and Steve Cummins place the fire hose on Rescue 2 Tuesday.
SIKESTON - While fire safety is important year-round, it is especially critical now as the Southeast Missouri region suffers from a moderate drought.

And with the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, it is important to practice extra caution while lighting fireworks.

"You should have some sort of a facility like a water hose or well to wet down the area where you're going to be shooting them," said City of Sikeston Fire Marshal Sgt. Tommy Conn.

This may pose a problem for some Sikeston residents who won't be able to legally light up fireworks at their homes this weekend. "Even on the Fourth, Sikeston ordinance doesn't allow them to shoot in the city limits," Conn said. He suggested residents wishing to shoot fireworks go into the country or check where they are allowed in Miner.

And Kelly Hooper, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Paducah, Ky., added fireworks are especially dangerous with the dry grass, because people can't control where they land.

"Some good common sense will go a long way here," he said. "Places where there are a lot of fuels - dry grass, twigs, or recently harvested wheat fields - aren't ideal places to light fireworks."

Other types of fuels include debris, wood and fallen trees, and areas that have recently been hit by wind storms also have an increased fire threat, Hooper added.

But no matter how moist or dry the surrounding area, people should be sure to have a fire extinguisher or something else easily available to put out a fire before lighting fireworks, Hooper said.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast for the next couple of days, but there is no guarantee any certain area will receive the rainfall. But with the high temperatures and current dryness, it wouldn't help too much, the men agreed.

"We'd have to get quite a bit to make a difference," Conn said, adding it is dryer than usual right now. "The grass is already dead and turning yellow."

Hooper agreed, saying it may help with some minor fuels, such as twigs, but will make no impact on bigger things, such as branches at least three-inches in diameter or recently harvested wheat fields. "They're going to stay dry until you get a long, slow rain," he said.

But fireworks aren't the only fire hazard for residents to be cautious about right now. Hooper said smokers should be sure their cigarettes are completely extinguished before they throw them out. "They really need to remember that when the grass is dry," he said.

And for those camping or grilling, they need to be sure they don't have an open fire. Hooper recommended bordering a campfire with rocks, steel or some other device to keep it contained, and never leaving the fire unattended.

Hooper noted it is important to be sure the local government hasn't issued a burn ban before lighting a campfire. This more or less depends on the county, he said.

In addition to dry weather, wind speed and direction also affect the intensity of a grass fire. "It can actually spread pretty fast," Conn said. "A good wind speed and grass fire can actually outrun you."

There are three components to look for when dealing with wildfires: terrain, which is a constant; the amount of fuels, which varies; and weather - a combination of wind and humidity - which also varies, according to Hooper.

Should anyone get burnt while grilling or lighting fireworks, Conn offered some advice. "The first thing to do is start flushing the area with cold water," he said. "It will slow down the swelling and blistering."

Burn victims will also need to see a physician or doctor concerning their burn, Conn noted.