Bonita Burned

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Mississippi law mandates that the forestry commission take necessary measures to prevent wildfires in the state. It also allows commission officials to go where they need to go to control or prevent fires that threaten life and property.

"The forest when it drops leaves, brush dies, limbs accumulate. It builds up a ground litter and over several years that ground litter may get a foot to two feet deep," said Ed brown of the Mississippi Forestry Commission. "And if you exclude periodic fire, that builds up to be a dangerous fuel bed in drought or dry conditions."

Wildfire activity in Mississippi typically peaks in February, declining in the late spring and early summer, and then rising again by the fall. Brown says this is because of seasonal plant life and the weather.

"The most conducive to wild fires are strong dry cold fronts with no rain," said Brown.

Control Fires are used to burn undergrowth and other vegetation that could possibly become fuel for a fire. The less fuel, the less chance of a major fire.

"With periodic fire you remove that fuel layer and actually speed up the decomposition," said Brown. "It makes a lot better fertilizer, when we burn, but the main thing is to reduce that fuel hazard in case of accidental fire."

Wildfires can start naturally, by lightning or solar heating on a hot day. But forestry officials say most fires are started by human carelessness
such as discarded cigarettes, campfires, and fireworks being among the top causes.