For now, at least, last week’s heavy rains have quieted what had been a busy start to the fire season.
Frank Hines, chief ranger for the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Effingham station, said his rain gauges totaled more than 5 inches. Bill Tyson of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service said farmers reported getting anywhere from 7 to 10 inches of rain last week.
Before last week, a rash of brush fires had popped up throughout the county. Just on one day alone, there was a brush fire in Rincon, a smaller fire on Stillwell-Clyo Road and a larger one near Egypt.
“We were getting busy,” said Hines. “We were getting concerned about it. The rain helped a lot. It helped tremendously.”
Some of the larger fires were a 300-acre blaze and an 80-acre fire. One was a controlled burn that got out of hand.
“It kind of caught us by surprise,” Effingham Fire and Rescue Lt. Walter Wright said of the fire outbreak. “The normal fire season doesn’t start until later in the year.”
Hines said the winds that are prevalent in March and April and the lower humidity of mid-spring are a volatile combination. The fire season generally starts about this time of year and the first part of it usually ends in May.
“You get wind, and wind and fire do not mix,” he said. “If we get a little bit of rain on and off, we should be OK.”
While the rain’s abated the area’s drought conditions, some farmers may have to head back out to their fields to plant seed again, Tyson said.
“I was talking to a farmer last week, and we couldn’t remember a spring being this wet since 2002,” he said.
There is water on some low ground, he said.
“Hopefully, it will drain off in a reasonable amount of time,” Tyson added. “We’ve got some areas we’ve got to replant.”
Some farmers may have to replant their corn seed, but Tyson expected any wheat and rye crops to handle the rain well. Tyson got 9 inches of rain in his gauge.
But the cold snap expected to hit tonight may be another matter.
“Hopefully, it won’t get too cold,” he said. “If we get a frost, it could cause considerable damage. We’ve got a good bit of corn already planted. It could cause significant problems for the corn crop and for the small grains.”
For the last few years, farmers have been trying to play catch up, hoping the moisture in the ground eventually meets the needs of the seeds they’ve planted. After last week, that’s not the case, but Tyson hopes the rainfall evens out in the coming months.
“Hopefully starting this spring, we’ll get timely rain throughout the growing season,” he said.
Hines said the forestry office is issuing burn permits and those wanting a permit should call the office at 764-6932.
“They’ll let you know if it’s a good day to burn or not,” Lt. Wright said. “The new laws are you have to have a permit, no matter what you burn.”
Wright said people who burn something on their property should stay with the fire until it’s completely extinguished.
“A lot of people will set the fire and walk away and the next thing they know, the whole ground’s on fire,” he said.
The rains also prompted Effingham County to close a section of Morgan Road and that stretch could be closed for a while as the county peers into re-engineering the drainage there, according to County Administrator David Crawley.