Dry weather and damaging storms from the last couple of years have created dangerous conditions for fire at a South Central Missouri National Forest.

“Right now, if somebody tosses a cigarette butt out of a car it could start a fire, or just drop a match or anything like that. Right now, the chances of that ignition source going into a fire… awfully good,” said Mark Twain National Forest Supervisor Dave Whittekiend.

He says the warning is vital right now as the lack of rainfall has left the Mark Twain National Forest, and the surrounding area, very dry.

“I’m not sure when the last rainfall was, but even that wasn’t very significant. We’ve got a lot of ‘fuels’ down. We’ve had ice storms the last couple of years; we had a wind storm on May 8th in 2009. So we’ve got a lot of fuel on the ground. It’s all very dry, and it all comes together to create a pretty dangerous situation,” Whittekiend said

The ‘fuels’ are trees, limbs and branches that were knocked to the forest floor by those storms.

“These are unusual conditions for Missouri. We have had some pretty big fires. Ours aren’t, thankfully, as spectacular as the ones in California and places like that, but we’ve had structures threatened. Homes have been burned right up next to, and fires are getting bigger than we normally would have in this area.” Whittekiend said

It’s bad timing too, as gun deer season opens on Saturday.

“We’re trying to put information in our campgrounds. We’re gonna have employees patrolling the forest probably starting today and into the weekend, making contacts with folks who are out camping in the forest letting them know about the fire danger,” Whittekiend said.

Whittekiend says they’ll ask visitors to take precautions like clearing extra space for their fire and keeping water or a shovel nearby in case it suddenly needs to be put out.

“At this point we’re asking people to be very careful with fire and if at all possible, if they don’t need a campfire, we’re asking them not to have campfires,” Whittekiend said.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]