Mo. Fire Officials Concerned Old Ice Storm Debris Could Create Wildfire Risk

November 28, 2007

Authorities are concerned that tree limbs and branches knocked down by an ice storm 10 months ago could create a wildfire risk in Missouri for several years.

The Missouri Department of Conservation estimates there are about 34 tons of branches, limbs and leaves on the ground per acre in the state now. That’s roughly roughly 10 times the normal amount, and the debris has now had a chance to dry.

“I don’t think when the ice storm hit in January that anyone realized how big a problem it had caused,” said Rich Stirts, fire chief of the Logan-Rogersville department in southwest Missouri. “It wasn’t until this summer we started getting out in the woods that we realized the extent of the damage.”

The concern is particularly high in southwest Missouri because of the amount of downed trees from tornadoes in recent years.

“That’s not going to change for three to five years, either,” said Tim Stanton, the Conservation Department’s regional forestry supervisor for southwest Missouri. “It will take at least that long for things to decompose.”

The ice storm hit rural and urban areas, including St. Louis. Cities and towns have generally picked up the debris, but limbs, branches and leaves remain in rural areas without municipal service.

Fire danger in Missouri typically is at its greatest during winter and early spring.

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