LAUREL, MS - (WDAM) Memorial Day weekend was far from a little time off for Jones county fire officials. Fire Coordinator, Dan McKenna, said, "51 incidents. Four of those were structure fires. 15 brush fires. We also had an unfortunate tragedy yesterday where a gentleman enjoying the holiday fell into a brush fire trying to put it out."
McKenna said dry conditions and stronger winds than normal are sparking fires quicker than normal, and people need to be aware before they start burning. He advised, "Please just don't do it if you aren't comfortable doing it or if you don't know what you're doing."
McKenna says almost all fires are preventable, and explained that a law was put in place July 2010 making cigarettes one less reason to spark brush fires.
McKenna said, "If you look at a pack of cigarettes it has on the pack of cigarettes, FSC, Fire Safe Cigarettes. Your cigarette tobacco is self extinguishing now. Mississippi was one of the first to go ahead and aggressively pursue that."
But surprisingly, cigarettes are generally not the initial spark that ignites brush fires. All the conditions have to be right in order for someone's flick to spark. The new law makes that even more difficult now. McKenna says most fires start with people burning when they probably shouldn't. He said, "With the lower humidity, the wind, you know, people are just not aware of how dry it really is out there."
He says as of right now, no burn ban has been put in place. Their goal is to focus on getting the word out before having to make that call, saying, "I don't feel that we are at the point where that's even a part of the discussion. We would prefer to publicize that people need to refrain from burning and try to use a little bit more discretion."
For now, they continue fighting fires, and hoping for a decent rain.