Democrat Photo/Lindsay Reed The Cassville Fire Protection District battled five grass fires along Highway 76 southeast of Cassville last Thursday. Barry County deputies provided traffic control and the Exeter and Butterfield fire districts offered mutual aid to extinguish the fires within an hour. According to the United States Drought Monitor report, the percentage of the state of Missouri experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions jumped from 33 percent to 79 percent in July. The Missouri Division of Fire Safety encourages Missourians to check with local officials before burning. The division also offers the following tips to avoid starting fires: smokers should extinguish butts completely before disposal and avoid discarding cigarettes from vehicles; when grilling outdoors position grills away from siding, deck railing and out from under eaves and overhanging branches; limit the use of candles and decorative torch lighting at outdoor gatherings; keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose near fire pits; use caution when driving vehicles off-road, several fires have started because of sparks from vehicles or equipment coming in contact with dry grass; and call 911 at the first sign of a fire. The Missouri State Parks, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Forest Service have issued bans on open fires.