MDC warns not to burn outdoor debris that could cause a wildfire

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) reminds people that strong winds, low humidity, and dry conditions this time of year means extra caution is needed to avoid unexpected wildfires. According to MDC, a main cause of wildfires is improper burning of debris such as leaves or brush piles.

“It’s been drier and warmer than usual, which means fires could get out of control very quickly,” said MDC Fire Program Supervisor Ben Webster. “We want everyone to check weather conditions and be extremely careful when burning leaves or debris. Check with your local fire department regarding burn bans or Red Flag Warnings that may be in place because critical fire weather conditions are either occurring or will shortly.”

Areas of Missouri have already seen an increase in wildfire activity over the last week, mainly in the southern half of the state. MDC staff have been working with other agencies and area fire departments to contain numerous wildfires.

Help Prevent Wildfires

A person who starts a fire for any reason is responsible for any damage it may cause. MDC urges landowners, hunters, campers, and others in the outdoors to help prevent wildfires and offers the following tips.

OUTDOOR BURNING: Don’t burn during wrong conditions. Dry grass, high temperatures, low humidity, and wind make fire nearly impossible to control. Check with local fire departments regarding burn bans or Red Flag Warnings that may be in place because critical fire weather conditions are either occurring or will shortly. 

DRIVING OFF ROAD: Wildfires can start when dry fuel, such as grass, comes in contact with catalytic converters. Think twice before driving into and across a grassy field. Never park over tall, dry grass or piles of leaves that can touch the underside of a vehicle. When driving vehicles off road, regularly inspect the undercarriage to ensure that fuel and brake lines are intact, and no oil leaks are apparent. Always carry an approved fire extinguisher on vehicles that are used off road. Check for the presence of spark arresters on ATV exhausts.

MAKING A CAMPFIRE: Clear a generous zone around fire rings. Store unused firewood a good distance from a campfire. Never use gasoline, kerosene, or other flammable liquid to start a fire. Keep campfires small and controllable. Keep fire-extinguishing materials, such as a rake, shovel, and bucket of water, close. Extinguish campfires each night and before leaving camp, even if it’s just for a few moments. 

CALL FOR HELP: Call 911 at the first sign of a fire getting out of control.

REPORT FOREST ARSON: Wildfires are sometimes set by vandals. Help stop arson by calling 800-392-1111 and reporting any potential arson activities. Callers will remain anonymous, and rewards are possible.

For more information on preventing wildfires, go online to

Prescribed Fire Can Help

Wildfire can destroy property and threaten life, especially if it strikes in an overgrown or unmanaged area. However, careful use of prescribed fire can actually improve land health, help create habitat for wildlife, and protect life and property. 

MDC and the Missouri Prescribed Fire Council promote the responsible use of prescribed fire as a natural resource management tool. Prescribed burning mimics the historical occurrence of fire that shaped our plant communities but is conducted under a prescription of specified environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, fuel moisture, wind speed and direction. 

Landowners, land managers, and contractors can become certified prescribed burn managers through a self-paced three-hour online prescribed burn course followed by an all-day field exercise to demonstrate skills learned.

For more information on using prescribed fire as a land-management tool and becoming certified in prescribed burns, visit

Helping Rural Fire Departments 

MDC supports about 700 rural fire departments around the state through tens-of-thousands of dollars in annual grant monies that help these small-town, mostly volunteer fire departments buy personal protective gear and firefighting equipment. Grant funds are used on everything from radios and other communication equipment to chainsaws, hoses, and hand tools. Funding for the program is provided by MDC and the U.S. Forest Service Volunteer Fire Assistance Program.

For more information on how MDC helps fire departments around the state, visit the MDC website at