Commission Predicts Bad Fire Season Ahead

Dry weather with low humidity usually equals wildfires here in South Mississippi, and this year is no different.

According to the Forestry Commission, there were more than 130 calls reporting wildfires in just the last two days. They say it's partially due to the large amount of debris left on the ground after Katrina.

That has the Commission predicting that the upcoming fire season will be one of the worst we have had in years.

"We are trying to discourage people from doing any outdoors burning. We have not had a really bad fire season in a while. This is as bad as it has been since I have been with the Forestry Commission. But the potential for a truly bad fire season is now, " said Todd Matthews of the Forestry Commission.

Foresters say March is typically the busiest month of the year for wildfire activity. And after Katrina they have lost a significant number of staff members.

"We are just not able to keep up with the number of wildfires we are having right now. These guys are actually from North Mississippi. They came down to help us out. We are so short handed that we have had to call in other crews to help us out," said Matthews.

Fortunately foresters like Dennis Dauterive are willing to take the heat.

"We try to help each other out around the state. Our fires don't get this intense. Plus, with all of the downed timber from the hurricane, that makes it twice as worse," said Dauterive.

"People just really have to be careful of what they are doing. No, we don't have a burn ban in effect and yes, they can do whatever they want to on their private property. But they have to take in to consideration the danger that is involved, the amount of debris that we have on the ground and the risk they are putting their neighbors into," said Matthews.

Matthews says the best time to burn is after we have seen a significant amount of rain.