ST. MARYS — Facing bone-dry conditions, a pair of local safety officials are cautioning residents from holding open burns until precipitation returns.
“As of last week, we were 8.5 inches below normal rainfall,” Auglaize County EMA Director Troy Anderson told The Evening Leader. “By the end of the week, we will probably be 9.5 inches because of evaporation and moisture leaving the soil.”
Low humidity, severely dry vegetation and winds have prompted the National Weather Service in Wilmington to issue a fire advisory until 8 p.m. today. Anderson noted the conditions are ripe for a fire to start without much assistance.
“It’s not just residents causing them by burning garbage,” Anderson said, noting state law prohibits the practice. “With hot air and dry vegetation, a piece of glass or metal could be laying in a ditch or field, and with the sun hitting it, it could spark a fire. Those are the things we are looking at right now ... With the winds at 5 to 10 mph, that could take a small fire and make it a large fire rather quickly.”
With a holiday approaching, Anderson stressed safety in the event residents opt for a camp or cooking fire.
“Make sure you have a burn ring and are not exceeding the limits,” Anderson said. “Keep everything back away and watch for sparks and embers. If you are grilling, make sure no sparks are going into the air. With dry air and low humidity, those can cause a fire pretty quickly.”
For farmers, Anderson said there isn’t much to do to prevent field fires.
“It’s hard with the combines,” Anderson said. “They are getting the wheat off and as hot as it is, there’s always a chance for a spark ... I think it will be like this clear until the end of July the way things are looking.”
Anderson also encouraged residents to keep their pets in mind in the wake of the dry, hot conditions.
“I cannot stress enough that people need to keep an eye on their pets,” Anderson said. “I was out the other day and saw animals being left in cars. You are in the store shopping in the air conditioning and your pet out in the car is in a worse condition than being outside. If you don’t need to take them, leave them at home.”
St. Marys Fire Chief Joey Weaver discouraged residents from open burning. He noted county officials are in the process of examining a possible burn ban in Auglaize County.
“Some cities have already issued a burn ban,” Weaver said, noting the city of West Carrollton recently enacted a burn ban. “It’s awfully dry and humid out there and there is no end in sight ... I would recommend not burning, especially with the grass being so dry. It can spread pretty quickly if it’s windy.”
Discarded cigarettes also are a danger. A still-burning cigarette can easily ignite mulch or other vegetation.
“It wouldn’t take much of a spark to start a fire,” Weaver said. “Don’t discard them into vegetation, find an ash tray or something to get rid of them. If you flip them out and it’s this dry, it won’t take much.”
Conditions are so dry across the state that officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry are urging residents to take precautions against burning.
“Ohio is having several small, human-caused wildfires,” said Robert Boyles, chief and state forester of the ODNR Division of Forestry, in a news release. “It is clear that conditions are leading to increased problems with wildfire, and we ask all Ohio residents to be careful.”
Boyles encouraged residents to follow the following tips — avoid burning trash and debris, keep grass trimmed, do not discard cigarettes and other smoking materials outside, take proper care of open cooking fires and campfires and be vigilant with equipment that produces heat and sparks, such as catalytic converters, hot mufflers, welding equipment and chainsaws.