Winter conditions ripe for fires warns chief

Thursday, December 7, 2017
FILE PHOTO - Mar. 22, 2017, Captain John McGraw sprays water onto a grass fire on Click Street.
Gabe Franklin

The winter fire season is upon us again — high winds, low humidity and dry conditions increase the risk of grass or natural cover fires.

“People have to stay on top of what they’re doing,” Nevada fire chief William Thornton said. “Fires can and will get away from you very quick even in good conditions if you’re not paying attention.”

According to Missouri Department of Conservation’s Forestry Division, the main cause of wildfires is the improper burning of debris such as leaves or brush piles.

“We are dry,” Thornton said. “Really what it boils down to, not sure where we stand on moisture level but it’s lower than normal I would guess. Additionally, we have extremely strong winds over the past month or so.”

Since Nov. 24, the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office has dispatched 13 grass or natural cover fires including one in Nevada. The majority of the fires over the past two weeks have occurred in the mid to late afternoon when humidity is typically low and winds are higher.

The Missouri Department of Conservation offers a number of guidelines to help prevent out of control fires that can destroy homes and endanger lives.

Outdoor Burning

MDC discourages outdoor burning when grass, brush, or other vegetation is very dry, the humidity is low or during high winds and reminds everyone that the person who starts a fire is responsible for whatever damage it may do.

Driving off road

The heat from a vehicle’s catalytic converter can ignite fine, dry grass. MDC suggests drivers not park over tall, dry grass or piles of leaves that can touch the bottom of the vehicle and to regularly check the bottom of the vehicle for fuel or oil leaks.

An ATV’s exhaust systems should be checked to ensure the spark arrestor is in place.

All vehicles used off-road should carry an approved fire extinguisher.


Remove leaves and other fuels from around fire rings and store firewood a safe distance away. Never use accelerants like gasoline to start a fire. Only build small, controllable fires and keep water or tools nearby to put the fire out if need be. Lastly, never leave a fire unattended.

MDC also urges smokers to be cautious when disposing of cigarette butts. A single cigarette but flicked out of a car window could start a large fire which can damage homes and endanger lives.

Call 911 as soon as a fire appears to have gotten out of control.

City of Nevada

Additionally, residents of Nevada must follow city ordinance in regards to outdoor burning.

• Winds, at time of burning, cannot exceed 10 mph. Permission to burn will be revoked if complaints are received from neighbors.

• A garden hose or fire extinguisher shall be available at all times to extinguish the fire.

• All burning shall be constantly attended by a competent person until the fire is completely extinguished.

• The size of the fire cannot exceed 72 inches by 72 inches by 48 inches high and must be within a cleared area.

• The fire must be fully extinguished when unattended.

• The hours for open burning are daylight to dusk.

• Open burning shall be a minimum of 25 feet from any structure.

• No flammable or combustible liquid shall be used to start or promote burning.

• Burning garbage, rubber, plastics, leather, dead animals, bedding furniture, or trash containing food cans, bottles and disposable diapers is prohibited.

• Burning of any combustible material in any manner that creates a hazard to property or persons is prohibited.

• No person shall burn any material upon public right-of-way (streets, sidewalks, etc.).

Nevada residents must call the fire department at 417-448-5105 before starting a fire.

“The permit is only good for one day,” Thornton said, “[Residents] can’t call in and get permission on Monday and burn again on Thursday.”

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