Urban Sprawl Making Controlled Burns More Difficult - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Urban Sprawl Making Controlled Burns More Difficult

The smoke hovering around D'Iberville on Friday came from fires set by federal forest agents. Controlled burns are used to prevent damaging, out of control fires in the future. However, growth in once rural areas puts flames near more homes.

Harrison County's CC Road was a street divided with shooting flames and heavy smoke on one side, and nearly a dozen homes on the other.

"We were out here early this morning and talked to as many people as we could," said ranger Eddie Baggett. " Knocked on doors and if nobody was home, we left door hangers that we could give them the message that it's not a wildfire, but it a controlled burned."

Firefighters patrolled a two-mile stretch to protect the houses from the controlled flames. The  goal is to protect the homes from future wildfires.

"What we're doing here is hazardous fuel reduction, in case you do have a wildfire," said Baggett. "Just to the south of here we had a wildfire in March of 2006. It killed some timber, threatened homes. Actually, we were putting in fire lines across some yards."

Rangers say as more housing developments go up in once rural communities, managing controlled burns becomes more difficult. If there isn't a street to divide the burn area from homes, firefighters must use creeks or plow fire lines. Then there's the smoke.

"The issues of the smoke," said ranger Rebecca Ladnier. "There are people who are sensitive to the smoke, and areas where we want to try to avoid putting smoke. And as the development increases, those types of smoke management issues increase as well."

U.S. Forest Service officials say they usually burn 70,000 to 90,000 acres in the DeSoto district, but because of less funding this year, rangers will only burn 55,000. Controlled burn season runs from January to mid-April.

by Danielle Thomas

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