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Field Day gives tips for fending off wildfire


By: Georgia Farm Bureau
10/4/2017 1:28:21 PM


Organizers of the Firewise on the Farm Field Day held Sept. 26 at the William Harris Homestead in Walton County had one simple overriding message: Remove fuel and fire won't happen.

Executing that strategy is a matter of recognizing conditions that might contribute to the start or spread of a wildfire.

"You've got all your hay in the barn and somebody drops a cigarette, or somebody throws a cigarette from the road," said Frank Riley of the Chestatee/Chattahoochee Resources Conservation & Development District. "It burns through the dry grass and then you can't put it out."

Firewise is a wildfire education program that Riley said is designed to make people aware of the dangers. It involves creating what he calls defensible space around assets being protected from wildfire, whether they are homes, farm buildings, equipment or agricultural production areas like hay fields or timber.

The event, hosted in part by Walton County Farm Bureau, featured more than a dozen stations providing information on fire and outdoor safety topics, including interaction with wildlife, downed power lines and kitchen fires.

The Georgia Forestry Commission's Monroe/Walton Unit had heavy equipment on hand to underscore the necessity - from a fire-prevention perspective - of keeping them maintained.

Unit Chief Rent Sanders pointed out the vented engine compartment on a bulldozer, where the ventilation holes were big enough to allow small debris into the engine compartment, providing fuel that could ignite from a spark. Sanders said farmers should take care to keep bearings on their equipment greased to prevent sparks.
Before controlled burns, Sanders recommended plowing firebreaks around the fields to be burned.

"Once you started controlled burning, you need to keep doing it periodically," Sanders said, recommending burns be done every 2-3 years.

Holly Campbell of the Southern Regional Extension Forestry Unit detailed a zone approach for protecting structures, whether they are homes, barns or other buildings. Zone 1, out to 30 feet from the building, should have plants that are low to the ground and have high water content. Campbell stressed that the lawn should be kept watered. Zone 2, from 30 feet to 100 feet away from the building, features clusters of shrubbery and/or widely spaced trees. Zone three is a reduced fuel zone, where flammable materials like fallen leaves are cleared away.

The City of Monroe Fire Department demonstrated what happens when water is thrown onto a grease fire - a violent combustion likely to spread fire rather than put it out.

The event was the first of its kind in Georgia, Riley said, noting that he would like to have similar events in all of the state's soil and water conservation districts.

"We're here to help. I'll come to any farm to look for anything that can be seen as risk," Riley said.


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