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It’s that time of year, when wildfires destroy timber, structures, lives

True to its “In like a Lion, out like a lamb” reputation, March in Mississippi has one of the highest occurrences of wildfires, mainly because of dry vegetation and active March winds.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared March as Wildfire Prevention Month to help focus attention on wildfires, which often have devastating consequences. So far this year, the Mississippi Forestry Commission responded to 491 wildfires that burned 9,422 acres. Firefighters with the Mississippi Forestry Commission saved 1,072 homes and structures, while those wildfires destroyed or damaged 28 homes and structures.

And, sadly, two people lost their lives as a result of those wildfires.

Statistics show humans cause nine out of 10 wildfires. That means 90 percent of all wildfires were preventable.

Do your part to make sure you don’t add to those statistics. The Mississippi Forestry Commission offers these tips to help.

• Check your weather forecast before doing any outdoor burning on dry, windy days.

• Make sure to obtain a burning permit if your burn is related to agriculture or forestry.

• Make sure to know whether a burn ban has been issued for your area before doing any recreational burning.

• Know your local laws and regulations governing outdoor burning.

• Make sure to burn in a safe area. The ground around the burn site should be surrounded by gravel or dirt and clear of vegetation that could catch fire — 10 feet in all directions.

• Keep campfires small, and never leave them unattended.

• Always have water on hand to put out any fire you start and make sure to stay with the fire until it is fully extinguished.

If your home is located near a wooded area, a prescribed or controlled burn can be utilized responsibly by a certified burn manager to reduce fuel for wildfires. Those burns clear underbrush and other flammable vegetation that builds up on the forest floor. A burning permit is required from the Mississippi Foresty Commission for a prescribed or controlled burn.

To report a wildfire, call 911.