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Firefighters vigilant over weather conditions suitable for wildfires

ST. LOUIS – St. Louis area firefighters were being extra vigilant Monday, as weather conditions combined to create what’s known as a ‘red flag day’ by emergency responders. A lack of rain, low humidity, and high winds can combine to make fire conditions much more dangerous than usual.

Metro West Deputy Chief Ed Beirne said wildfires can move quickly.

“Fire was moving at a rate of 100 yards in 45 seconds to 1 minute.”

Firefighters don’t want to see the fast-moving California type of fire to break out here. At Metro West, they have brush firefighting equipment on hand, including four-wheel and all-terrain vehicles than can get into very tight spots. The deputy chief advised homeowners to make sure they have a buffer zone around houses—areas which are free of dry fuel—and to always have an evacuation kit ready.

“You should have all your important documents, policies, medicines anything like that,” Beirne said.

At the nearby Rockwoods Reservation, park lovers worried about potential fire hazard.

“It’s a conversation I think we need to protect it,” said park goer Robyn Burton.

Missouri Conservation Department workers wear special protective clothing and undergo extensive training for wild fires.

“If a fire were to start, it could grow very quickly and grow into a significant event,” said Gus Raeker, an employee of the conservation department.

Raeker said a leaf blower can be more important than water in controlling the spread of fire. They blow the dry fuel away from the fire to stop it from spreading.

“The biggest thing we need to do is remove the fuel,” he said.

Raeker said one advantage Missourians have is that people tend to spot fires quickly. Out west in California, flames could break out in a remote part of the state and not be discovered for a couple hours.