Local fire officials say area residents are paying attention to warnings which has resulted in very few brush fires despite the record high temperatures and lack of rain.

“I am very pleased with the lack of brush fire calls we have responded to,” said Union Fire Protection Chief Russ Hamilton. “It shows people area wide are listening to the warnings and taking them seriously.”

Recent wildfires in Colorado also have made people think more about the dry conditions and fire safety.

“The publicity from all of the fires in Colorado has made people more aware,” said Beaufort-Leslie Fire Chief Terry Feth. “It doesn’t hurt to remind them.”

According to an Associated Press report, the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska rates Missouri’s fire risk as the highest in the nation.

In northern Missouri, a barn burned after hay got so hot it spontaneously combusted. Mike O’Connell of the Missouri Department of Public Safety says sparks from fireworks, farm equipment and mowers have all started fires. A cemetery caught on fire in Hannibal after someone tossed a cigarette or cigar from their car. And many fire departments say they’ve seen an increase in brush fires.

“The fires the area communities have experienced have been quick to grow in size and spread rapidly,” Hamilton said. “This is indicative of the weather conditions we have been experiencing; the high temperatures with low humidity and literally no rainfall.”

He further added that the lack of rain causes major concerns while fighting any type of fire because flames will spread much more quickly.

Union fire crews recently put out two structure fires near the downtown Union area that could have spread to other buildings, but firefighters were able to knock the fire down quickly.

There normally is an increase in brush or grass fires in late summer months, but the risk has been high due to the dry weather.

“Any type of combustible material which can include a home’s exterior has to be considered a fuel source,” said Hamilton. “This is one of the main reasons for the fire districts issuing warnings about the danger of fireworks and open burning — there is just too much risk right now to allow either.”

Union fire officials are asking citizens to refrain from any outside burning which includes recreational type fires.

“Until we receive substantial rainfall and seasonal conditions we are accustomed to everyone will need to stay on alert and heed the fire warnings,” Hamilton added.

• Do not discard cigarettes from moving vehicles. Use ashtrays instead;

• Check lawnmowers and farm equipment for properly working spark arresters;

• Properly extinguish fires when cooking outdoors and never leave fires unattended;

• When pulling to the side of the road, stay off dry, grassy areas; and

• Keep a garden hose close when working outside.