Fire danger up with dry conditions; take care with fireworks, cookoutsBy SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
It’s dry in Coweta, and the fire danger is high. Make that “very high.”
Jeff Mansour, ranger and forestry tech with the Coweta office of the Georgia Forestry Commission, said they will likely change their fire danger sign from “high” to “very high” by today.
“They weren’t bad. They were just little roadside grass fires,” Mansour said. “Fortunately, the grass is green so it is not burning,” he said. But it won’t stay green unless we get some rain.
“The fuel moisture is getting pretty low,” Mansour said. The forestry commission uses fuel moisture, relative humidity and the drought index to determine fire danger.
Dry conditions and errant fireworks with the upcoming Fourth of July holiday can be a recipe for fires.
“With the dry conditions, fireworks can start a wildfire or even more devastating, a house fire,” said Coweta Fire Marshal Jimmy Gantt. “Fireworks landing in gutters with dry leaves or pine straw, or in pine straw or wood mulch next to a house, can easily ignite and cause a devastating fire.”
Fireworks can also cause fires in fields if it is dry enough, said Newnan Fire Marshal Ricky Ayers. Even a spent sparkler tossed on the ground can ignite dry grass.
“If we don’t get any rain between now and next Wednesday, then there is a very good chance that there will be quite a few fires started by fireworks,” Mansour said.
Of course, fireworks and cigarettes aren’t the only dangers.
Hot coals from a charcoal grill that are dumped at the edge of yards or in trash cans “can quickly cause an out-of-control fire,” Gantt said.
And, “even though the state burn ban is in effect until October, people still burn debris,” Gantt said. “These illegal burns can quickly get out of control.”
“You can prevent fires by not using consumer fireworks — attend a public fireworks display,” said Gantt. “Discard cigarette butts in a safe manner and wait until you know the charcoal from your grill has cooled by placing it in a metal container with water before discarding it,” he said.
The last time Coweta had measurable rainfall was on June 11, said Mansour.
Coweta’s drought index, as of Thursday, is 481, on a scale of 0 to 800. And that’s up from 308 on June 11.
“In just over two weeks, our drought index has gone up 173 points,” said Mansour. “Which, on a scale of 0 to 800, is fairly substantial,” he said.
It’s the highest it has been so far this year, and while a drought index of 481 isn’t particularly unusual, “it is early in the summer to be as high as it is,” Mansour said.