Department of Conservation warns wildfires could spread

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Conservation asked Missourians to take caution to prevent wildfires like ones that created massive damage in the western United States. It warned that three conditions - low humidity, dry grass and wind speeds over 10 miles per hour - can lead to a fire quickly spreading.

MDC Community Forester Ann Koenig said wildfires in Missouri look different from what most people think.

“They picture fires that go up into the crown of trees. Our wildfires in Missouri tend to be grass fires or leaf fires that stay on the ground," Koenig said.

Gale Blomenkamp, assistant fire chief with Boone County Fire Protection District, said these fires, which the district refers to as brush fires, often start from residents burning trash, brush or crops. He said people have good intentions but do not realize their actions could have consequences.

"What we hear is that, 'I had no idea it was that dry or I had no idea the fire was going to move that fast,' Blomenkamp said. "They want to do the right thing by burning off their crop grounds or burning off their dry grasses. They just don't anticipate the wind shifts that we get here in mid-Missouri."

These fires happen more in rural areas, but they can also happen in town. Blomenkamp said if someone is responsible for a brush fire that gets out of control and damages another person's property, they might be held held liable for damages.

“If you’re out burning and you burn down someone’s shop or their garage on a controlled burn, you’re going to be held liable for the damages that you cause to someone else’s property," Blomenkamp said. 

He said people should mow the grass down to a low level, keep a water source nearby and call in a controlled burn ahead of time. Boone County residents can call the non-emergency number for their local jurisdiction and report a controlled burn in case it gets out of hand.

Koenig said an alternative to a controlled burn is composting objects instead. She said some items can serve as a good habitat for wildlife animals.

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