Area in danger from wildfires

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 8, 2000

A total of 46 wild fires have damaged more than 315 acres of Butler County forest land since December making the 1999/2000 fire season one of the busiest in recent history say officials for the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Paul Hudgins, County Supervisor for the AFC said that during the month of February alone, some 30 fires have scorched or consumed more than 285 acres in the county. He said the fires have not been limited to one particular area.

"We were real surprised this year with how widespread the fires have been throughout the county," he said. "Most of the fires we have experienced this year have been the result of people burning debris such as leaves, limbs and trash."

Hudgins said that while debris fires don't require a permit, the largest single fire this season was the result of a permitted prescribed burn.

"One fire near the Spring Hill Community burned about 75 acres and it was the result of a prescribed burn that got out of control," he said.

Hudgins said a prescribed burn is one that landowners do intentionally to reduce the fuel level in a stand of trees to help prevent later wild fires.

However, Hudgins said debris and prescribed burns have not been responsible for all of the fires this season.

"We have identified four arson sets near the Shackleville Community that were responsible for burning a total of 126 acres of young International Paper plantation trees," Hudgins said.

He said the fire season in Butler County begins in October and runs through April. Hudgins said that members of the community should take as many precautions as possible to prevent fires from getting out of control.

"For prescribed burns people need to make sure they provide adequate fire lanes and have adequate means to control the fire," he said. "And, people who are burning debris need to make sure they have plenty of water or some other means of controlling the fire on hand, and make sure they stay with the fire until it is extinguished."

Hudgins said it only takes a few seconds for a fire to get out of control, and that all fires, no matter how small, should be supervised.

While there has been no major structural damage resulting from wild fires this year, Hudgins said there have been four cars, an abandoned house and a barn full of equipment lost to fires this year.

He said that anyone burning debris over an area of one-quarter acre or more must apply for a burn permit. The permit, he said, is free of charge, but must be obtained before burning large areas.

To obtain a burn permit or to report suspected arson, call the AFC at 1-800-5679.