Wildfire threat high, County Fire Dept. issues Burn Ban

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. -- While the weather may be turning cooler soon, there's still no sign of rain in the forecast.

And that means the threat of wildfires in our area will continue to be high.

Unincorporated Shelby County is under a burn ban until further notice and several grass fires have already been reported.

One of them came dangerously close to a home in Eads.

"I think it was more than two acres that was actually burned."

Matthew Cavitch was thankful no one was hurt and his house in Eads is still standing, after  burning leaves in his back yard got out of control Thursday morning.

"It just spread out of control. And when I first discovered the problem, the fire had already gotten to that line which was only forty or fifty feet from the house,"  he said.

He called 911 and Shelby County Firefighters quickly got on the scene and doused the flames.

But 24 hours later fire crews were called back to Cavitch's yard to extinguish several hot spots.

Ironically, the fire happened about the same time the County issued a burn ban.

Unusually dry conditions have turned the landscape into a tinderbox.

"When it's this dry, it just goes so rapidly. Fences become involved, outbuildings, the sides of houses," said Brent Perkins, Information Officer with the Shelby County Fire Dept.

He said open burning is prohibited till the burn ban is lifted, but it's still okay to cookout over a grill as long as you are very careful.

Perkins said the public can learn a big lesson from that huge mulch fire that burned for days in East Memphis.

He said yard debris you are composting can become a fire hazard.

"Once it hits a couple of hundred degrees and starts to get hotter and hotter as it decomposes, you've got naturally dry materials that will combust,"  said Perkins.

Firefighters said the bottom line is not to put a match to anything right now.

Cavitch has one more piece of advice.

"Don't think you can handle it. Err on the side of caution and call the fire department. They're wonderful and they don't make you feel bad," he said.

If you have questions about the burn ban you can go to the Shelby County Fire Department's website or call them at 222-8000.