August 3, 2005
ODNR DIVISION OF FORESTRY WARNS OF
INCREASED WILDFIRE RISK THROUGHOUT OHIO
COLUMBUS, OH - Weeks of hot and dry weather, followed by recent “hit-and-miss” storms and rain showers, have created potentially dangerous conditions for wildfires in hay fields and highway median strips across the state, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry warned today.
“Hot and dry weather in June and early July significantly slowed the growth of grasses and legumes in many of Ohio’s hay fields and grassy areas,” said John Dorka, chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. “Recent rains may cause field vegetation to grow rapidly and then quickly return to very dry conditions. As producers head to the hay fields to harvest a second-cutting, the risk of wildfire from stray sparks striking dry hay increases.”
“We ask all Ohioans to use extreme caution under these volatile conditions. A carelessly tossed cigarette onto a highway median or heat and sparks caused from bad bearings, or poorly maintained haying equipment can lead to wildfires, threatening not only fields and equipment, but also wildlife, people and property,” he said.
Make sure equipment is well maintained: grease bearings to prevent overheating; check belts for wear and replace if necessary; maintain good exhaust systems to prevent sparks. ATV’s can be an especially significant cause of wildfire starts. If riding an ATV, make sure it has a good spark arrestor, and avoid riding in areas of tall, dead grasses. Be especially wary of areas, such as steep, grassy slopes, where fire can get out of control in seconds. Call 911 or notify your local fire department if you see an escaped fire.
Each year, about 1,000 wildfires consume nearly 6,000 acres of forest and grassland in Ohio.