Despite recent rain, fire threat remain

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

By Rusty Murry

Nevada Daily Mail

The slow, soaking rain that moved through Vernon County and other parts of the state Saturday night was welcome but has done little to alleviate the threat of fire that has plagued the area for much of the summer.

According to Andy Boxell of the National Weather Service office in Springfield, Mo., the central part of the county received 1-2 inches of rain with some areas reporting as much as three inches. Boxell said Vernon County "made out much better than other counties" and that the central part of the county got more rain that the southeastern part of the county.

Boxell said it "was a good rain" that is "beneficial," but that it is "not going to be enough to bring any relief to the drought" conditions that have taxed crops, livestock and local firefighters for the past couple of months.

The NWS meteorologist said this area is more than eight inches behind on rainfall for the year and closer to 10 inches for the summer months. Boxell said the rain will provide a temporary "greening up" of some grass and vegetation, but the high temperatures and windy conditions expected this week "will put us right back where we were."

Boxell said, "The fire threat is not going to go away."

Much of the benefit of the weekend rain is already gone. Boxell said that right after the rain the moisture content of things like grass and twigs that ignite easily was 26 percent in the Mount Vernon and Clinton areas. He said those areas are fairly representative of the region; but by Monday, that moisture content was already back down to 10 percent and 7 percent in those areas, respectively.

Nevada Fire Chief Bill Thornton estimates that, similarly, the moisture content in such small plants in the Nevada area will be between 8 and 12 percent by the middle of the week.

Thornton said the threat for grass fires and other fires is "still severe" and the city will continue its burn ban. "The drought is still there," he said. "The grass is still dry and dead."

Thornton said the Nevada Fire Department has recently responded to several fire-related calls. Between Aug. 13 and Aug. 23, the NFD assisted other departments four times; and Thornton estimates the city and volunteer departments in the county have been on 35-40 calls during the month.

Thornton said the drought is probably beginning to impact water supplies as well, so it is crucial that people observe the prohibition on burning. The burn ban will remain in effect until "significant rainfall" reduces the risk of fire.

A prohibition on fires is still in effect on all Missouri Department of Conservation property as well, except those in a self-contained cooking grill or within the metal fire ring that is supplied on many areas.

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