Wildfire danger high in west central Missouri

News from the region
Kansas City
Published Date

KANSAS CITY Mo - The risk of wildfire is high this week in rural areas of western Missouri including the Truman Lake region, according to foresters for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).

Fire dangers are up due to a dry October, low humidity and a plentiful fire fuel supply such as drying grasses and leaves. Foresters urge residents and campers to refrain from burning leaves and trash outdoors and to report any suspicious activity that might be connected with arson fires.

“Our fire danger in the past week has been in the high to very high range,” said Josh Shroyer, an MDC forester based in Clinton. “On one or two days it hit the extremely high danger level.”

A National Weather Service observer in Clinton reported only .6 of an inch of rainfall for the month of October, when the normal rainfall there is 3.76 inches per month, said meteorologist Mike July.

That’s left tinder-dry materials on the ground such as downed logs and limbs, leaves, dead weeds and dormant grasses, said MDC Regional Forestry Supervisor Mark Nelson. He added that frosts have added fuels.

“The grasses and the leaves and even the logs on the ground are dried out to where we’re seeing very high fire danger,” Nelson said. “All it takes is a spark to destroy thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and pastures, and even threaten property and human lives.”

Rain on Monday eased slightly the fire danger in a few parts of the west central Missouri, with substantial rain helping southern St. Clair County, Shroyer said. Cooler temperatures are helping some, too.

But much of the Truman Lake region on Monday got only light rain and that moisture is evaporating quickly – or already gone -- with sunny, breezy days forecast for the remainder of this week.

“We didn’t get enough rain at Clinton to take the fire danger down for today,” Shroyer said on Tuesday.

At Sedalia, only three hundredths of an inch of rain was recorded by the National Weather Service on Monday, barely measurable. The agency’s rain gauge in the city measured only .35 inch of rain in October, compared to normal average rainfall of 3.65 inches. Warrensburg received only .63 inch of rain during the month.

Foresters are concerned because low moisture in autumn can lead to major wildfires in rural areas where firefighting crews have a broad countryside to protect and sometimes must battle blazes in hard to reach off-road locations.

Campers need to be extra cautious with campfires. Outdoor burning of leaves and trash should be avoided if possible, Nelson said. Foresters say that 60 percent of Missouri’s wildfires are accidentally caused by careless trash burning.

If a person must burn items such as household trash, they should stay with a fire until it’s completely out and cold to the touch, Nelson said. Keep water and a leaf rake on hand to control any stray blazes. If possible, keep a cell telephone handy to call 911 to ask for firefighter assistance if a wildfire starts.

“Never leave a fire untended until the last coal is out,” he said.

Arson on public lands has been a problem in past years in the Truman Lake area, Nelson said. Anyone seeing suspicious activity that could be arsonists is asked to call the Operation Forest Arson hotline at 1-800-392-1111. Rewards for information leading to arrests or convictions of violators range from $100 to $1,000. More information is available at http://mdc.mo.gov/contact-us/operation-forest-arson. _ Bill Graham