Missouri Natural Cover Fire Risk
The Missouri Division of Fire Safety, the National Weather Service and local fire response agencies in affected areas of Missouri discourage open burning when the weather service or local authorities advise against burning due to elevated fire risks because of dry conditions.
Beginning in February, a combination of unseasonably warm temperatures, lower humidity levels and breezy conditions in Missouri combined to elevate the fire risk and the potential for fires to quickly grow out of control. Natural cover fires put lives and property at risk.
In February, State Fire Marshal Tim Bean urged Missourians to refrain from burning leaves or brush in the areas of our state where the National Weather Service and local officials were warning of elevated fire risks. Conditions in most of Missouri were abnormally dry or in moderate drought due to the lack of moisture and fire risks grew as those drought conditions persisted through late March.
Wildfires not only pose a risk to lives and property, they place emergency responders in harm’s way and can delay their ability to respond to house fires, vehicle crashes, medical calls and other emergencies. Smoke from wildland fires can also reduce visibility leading to traffic crashes and create medical issues for people with respiratory conditions.
On Feb. 16, fire response agencies across Missouri responded to many brush fires that resulted from open burning growing out of control. By early afternoon on Feb. 17, the St. Clair Fire Protection District in Franklin County had responded to six brush fires, five of which were the result of open burning. Drought conditions, as indicated by the U.S. Drought Monitor, worsened in late February and most of March.
Rain at the end of March and in early April have improved conditions, with the percentage of Missouri in the “moderate” and “severe” drought categories dropping from more than 60 percent to less than 13 percent between March 28 and April 4.
The Division of Fire Safety continues to discourage open burning whenever the weather service or local authorities advise against burning due to elevated fire risks.
Here’s what you can do to help reduce the spread of fires:
- Refrain from any open burning of leaves, brush or debris whenever conditions warrant.
- Do not wait to call 911 at the first sign of a fire.
- Smokers should be extremely careful, extinguishing cigarette and cigar butts completely before disposal. Do not discard cigarettes from motor vehicles.
- Secure trailer chains to prevent dragging. A spark in contact with dry grass could start a fire.
- Off-Road Driving: Use caution when driving vehicles off-road. Sparks from vehicles or equipment coming in contact with dry grass can start fires in dry conditions. 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.
- 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.
- 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. Do not burn trash and leaves. Avoid using soft woods that are likely to pop and throw sparks.