Summer Fire Safety
The percentage of the state of Missouri experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions has jumped from 33 percent to 79 percent, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on July 5. The severe lack of rain, extremely hot temperatures and low relative humidity levels have heightened wildfire danger across Missouri. Several wildfires have each burned several hundred acres in Missouri in 2012.
Given current drought conditions and forecasts for more extreme heat, it’s important to observe fire bans that are in place in many Missouri counties and communities, and be careful with potential fire hazards across the state.
Residential Grill Fire Facts
- An estimated 5,700 grill fires occur on residential properties each year in the United States.
- Thirty-two percent of grill fires on residential properties start on patios, terraces, screened-in porches, or courtyards.
What You Can Do
- CHECK FIRST Check with local officials before burning or using fireworks. Where burning or fireworks are permitted, use extreme caution. If you do not need to burn, put it off. Even green grass can burn, due to low moisture.
- SMOKING Smokers should be extremely careful, extinguishing butts completely before disposal. Do not discard cigarettes from motor vehicles.
- GRILLING Use caution with outdoor grilling: Position the grill well away from siding, deck railing, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited. Never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going. Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.
- CANDLES Be careful with and limit the use of candles and decorative torch lighting at outdoor gatherings. Be watchful.
- FIRE PITS Be extra careful with fire pits, exercising the same precautions you would with an open fire: Before lighting the fire, check the wind direction. Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby. Do not overload. Keep away from flammable material and fluids such as gasoline and charcoal lighter fluid or vehicles while in use. Do not use flammable liquids to light or relight fires. Do not burn trash and leaves. Avoid using soft woods that are likely to pop and throw sparks.
- OFF-ROAD DRIVING Use caution when driving vehicles off-road. Several fires have started because of sparks from vehicles or equipment coming in contact with dry grass. Catalytic converters on motor vehicles can also start fires when they come in contact with fine, dry fuel, such as grass. Always carry a fire extinguisher on vehicles that are used off-road.
- POWER OUTAGE In a power outage always use a flashlight - not a candle - for emergency lighting.
- DO NOT WAIT Call 911 at the first sign of a fire.
- CONTINUING HAZARD Be aware that light rainfall will not replenish soil moisture and substantially reduce fire hazards. We will need significant rainfall to reduce the fire hazard.
- Missouri State Parks has issued an open fire ban for all state parks and historic sites, including prohibiting campfires and other open fires. Contained charcoal fires used for cooking as well as gas cook top stoves are allowed.
- The Missouri Department of Conservation has issued a fire ban on all conservation areas, including prohibiting campfires and other open fires. The fire ban does permit the use of contained camp stoves and charcoal cooking fires in concrete or metal fire rings. The use of wood in cooking fires is prohibited under the fire ban. The use of fireworks in MDC conservation areas is already prohibited under the Wildlife Code of Missouri.
- The U.S. Forest Service has prohibited open fires in the Mark Twain National Forest except in campfire rings or pedestal grills in developed recreation areas. Possession or use of fireworks is also prohibited. Park visitors are permitted to use contained camp stoves.
- The Ozark National Scenic Riverways has banned open fires in the park. The ban prohibits all campfires and other open fires, including those in pedestal charcoal grills. Camp stoves and grills with lids may be used. Ensure charcoal is cold before disposal. Fireworks are always prohibited.