Agriculture
6:07 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Rangers Fighting Mark Twain Forest Fires

Three hundred more acres of Mark Twain National Forest in Salem have burned since last night, in a fire that has burned 5,000 acres since Tuesday afternoon.

by Nick Gass (Columbia, Mo.)

Rainy, cold weather provided some relief for some 50 Forest Service firefighters battling wildfires in Mark Twain National Forest in Salem. But despite the rain, Salem District forest ranger Thom Haines says there is a scenario where the fires could become worse.

“..we get fresh leaves falling. Those leaves dry out tomorrow, let’s say, Saturday, let’s say, OK? There’s a big pocket of embers that are still going which catch those leaves on fire, and the whole thing starts all over again," Haines said. 

Haines says in an average year, wildfires generally burn 5,000 or 6,000 acres of Mark Twain National Forest. He says 107 wildfires have burned through 18,000 acres this year. Fire information officer Bill Paxton says the firefighters have had to pick their battles.

“The smarter thing to do is to back off to these places where we can address the fire on our terms," Paxton said.

The fires are under investigation as suspected arson cases, but no reports have been finalized.