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Did you know a wet ground can increase brush fires?

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  • Did you know a wet ground can increase brush fires?

    I didn't know that until now.

    This has to be one of the wackiest headlines I've read in quite awhile.


    Brush fires increase due to wet ground, wind
    Fire districts urge caution when burning leaves

    By Sarah Whitney
    Wednesday, March 19, 2008 10:24 AM CDT

    The combination of last week's warm weather and wet ground caused an increase in natural cover fires.

    The Warrenton Fire Protection District responded to eight natural cover fires in the past two weeks, which is more than usual, Capt. Ed Hanratty said.

    A natural cover fire is fueled by leaves, twigs and other undergrowth. They most often happen when people lose control of burning leaves.Hanratty attributed the increase to people thinking it was safe to burn because the ground was still wet from recent snowstorms, but they need to consider other factors, he said.

    Even though the ground is wet, the leaves and brush on top of the ground are dry, said Warrenton Fire Chief Mike Owenby.

    "The wind catches it and it gets away from them," he said.

    He explained that if the wind is blowing 5 mph and a person loses control of a fire, the fire then grows 5 mph in every direction.

    In two of the eight fires Warrenton firefighters responded to, they were assisting Wright City firefighters. One was a natural cover fire that was close to Wright City High School, and the second was a rubbish fire that caused a natural cover fire due to a resident burning furniture, Wright City Fire Chief Brian Nickerson said.

    Wright City firefighters have responded to four natural cover fires in the past two weeks.

    Dan Jaspering, of 26579 Highway U, called Warrenton firefighters Wednesday when the wind caught his leaf pile and spread the fire along his backyard and into the adjacent woods.

    "I tried to get it raked up, but I couldn't do it; it happened so fast," Jaspering said.

    That blaze was the fourth natural cover fire Warrenton firefighters had responded to that day, Hanratty said.

    Warrenton firefighters had the fire out within 10 minutes of arriving on the scene.

    Thankfully, none of the fires has been big, Owenby said.

    To check if weather conditions are good for leaf burning, residents may call Warren County Joint Communications at 636-456-7088.

    A dispatcher will let residents know if the conditions are too windy or dry for burning that day, Hanratty said.

    He also recommended that residents leave their name, address and phone number with the dispatcher as a safety precaution in case someone sees the smoke and calls the fire district.

    "That way we're not running lights through town and putting people in danger when it's not needed," he said.

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    Warrenton Fire Capt. Ed Hanratty's fast fire safety tips:

    > Call 636-456-7088 to see if weather conditions are favorable for burning.

    > Burn in the morning or evening when the winds are usually lighter to decrease the chances of the fire getting out of control.

    > Don't leave a burn pile unattended; a fire most often spreads when people leave to eat lunch or dinner.

    > Have a rake.

    > Have easy access to a garden hose.

    > The pile should be no higher than 4 feet.
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