Windy weather ups grass fires

Published 2:06 am Friday, March 28, 2014

The month of March is known for its wind gusts, and this year local fire officials say more than just kites are being carried on the breeze.

Andalusia firefighter Anthony Jones said embers from trash burning and other fires getting caught in the high winds is one of the factors that has led to a larger-than-normal amount of grass and woods fires over the past several weeks.

“We had two grass fires in one day the other day,” Jones said. “Wind gets the embers from fires up and they can float along way and land on something dry.”

Jones said there is obviously nothing that can be done about the wind, but there is plenty locals can do to avoid causing wildfires.

“If people want to burn in the city limits, we have to make sure they are doing it safely,” Jones said. “They have to come up here to the fire department and get a permit to burn. It’s simple. It’s just a name and an address and it’s free.”

Jones said the purpose of a permit is not only to make sure people are burning only city-approved materials like wood and paper, but also so fire officials know where the burnings are taking place.

“If people get a permit, we have their address, and if someone calls in and reports the fire, we already know what it is,” Jones said. He added that a trip to the fire station is only necessary for the first permitted burn, and subsequent fires only require a phone call to fire officials.

Jones said burning is not permitted any time the wind is blowing more than 10 miles per hour, and materials like asbestos, rubber, pine straw, leaves and grass trimmings are not allowed to be burned.

“We can’t have people burning things that might release toxins in the air,” Jones said. “When you burn leaves and that sort of thing, it produces a thick white smoke. Sometimes that can be bad for visibility.”

Jones said residents with permits to burn are also required to do so at least 50 feet from any structure; are required to have a water hose on hand; and may only burn between the hours of 7 a.m. and one hour prior to nightfall.

Jones said Andalusia residents may come by the fire station to pick up a permit or just ask questions at their leisure.

“We’re here 24/7, 365 days a year,” he said.

Jones also said residents living in county jurisdiction, or in other municipalities, should check with their local fire officials for rules and regulations concerning any kind of controlled burn.

Andalusia Fire Department is located on 100 Church St.