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Don't let careless fire burn you
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If you haven’t noticed, Effingham County Fire and Rescue Department has instituted a burn ban and wisely so.

What has transpired the last few weeks has shown just how much damage even the smallest spark can cause. This week, Effingham County and most of the Coastal Empire were shrouded in the acrid smoke of a forest fire almost 100 miles away, not only filling the air and making it hard to breathe but also making driving in morning fog an even more dicey proposition up and down I-95.

The spring drought has been both plaguing and confounding. Springtime in southeast Georgia isn’t supposed to be this dry — ever. It has made conditions unbelievably treacherous for brush fires and forest fires to break out with even the smallest spark.

It doesn’t take much for a small fire to burn off trash or a pile of leaves in the yard to spread into something bigger and more dangerous.

Brush fires have erupted in Effingham County, burning more than 100 acres, and in Chatham County, singing even more land and trees. The fire that has swept through Ware County and the Okefenokee Swamp has burned tens of thousands of acres and may cost upwards of $20 million before it’s finally extinguished. There are those times when fires help a swamp or a forest — those controlled burns, done under the supervision of forestry officials, clean out the growth that acts as a tinderbox for larger fires. But it may be some time before that practice is resumed.

The drought not only has made conditions hazardous, it also could be putting cropland and livestock in peril. There’s also no longtime relief to the hot, dry weather in sight. It is expected to remain this way for a while, meaning these conditions will persist throughout what is sure to be another hot south Georgia summer.

In the meantime, for questions about outdoor burning, call 1-877-OK2-BURN (1-877-652-2876). They can tell you if there are any burn permits being issued that day if you wish to burn something outside.

The Wicked Witch of the West asked the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” if he wanted to play with fire. The Scarecrow, who sang “If I Only Had a Brain,” knew better. Maybe he wasn’t so dumb after all.

We urge anybody to be especially cautious about burning anything and about even so little as discarding a lit cigarette under the current conditions.