County still under fire alert

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Despite a small amount of rainfall across Butler County early Tuesday morning, a fire alert remains in effect.

The rainfall that came Tuesday was not enough to lift the fire alert placed on Butler County and 54 other counties.

According to fire officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission, north Alabama averaged .50 inch of rain while the southern portions of the state received only .25 inch.

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&uot;The rains did not really have any impact on us,&uot; said County Forestry Manager Paul Huggins. &uot;We were just informed that we were still under alert and will remain so.&uot;

With the current severe dry conditions and predicted dry weather, low humidity and strong winds for the end of the week the Commission felt it would not be safe at this time to lift the alert.

This fire alert means that those who plan to have fires must still maintain a permit.

Huggins said that in Butler County they would take no chances.

&uot;We are still going to be very selective with fire permits,&uot; said Huggins. &uot;Unless people have the equipment to put the fires out and control them no permits will be issued.&uot;

Under a fire alert the Alabama Forestry Commission has the right to restrict the issue of outdoor burn permits.

Every request for a permit will be evaluated on an individual basis before one will be issued.

With the rainfall the Commission has the opportunity to be more lenient in issuing permits until dry conditions dictate they be stopped again.

Though the rains in Alabama may not have been enough to erase the alert they did allow state firefighters to get some much-needed rest.

The rains also gave them an opportunity to do maintenance and repairs on the fire line equipment.

Many commission firefighters have worked weeks without time off and fatigue has been a problem.

With state budget cuts the Forestry Commission is currently operating with a 10 percent personnel shortage.

With no relief crews available and many counties understaffed it has been difficult to adequately respond safely respond to fires.

Though the rains came Monday the fires did not stop.

A total of 21 counties were hit with forest fires consuming 255.1 acres of woodland.

So far this month 1,502 fires have burned 23,686 acres.

Since the beginning of the fiscal year, October 1, 2003, 2,883 fires have burned 33,913 acres.

Because of the problems that have occurred throughout the state Huggins asked that those who are able to get permits do their part to prevent forest fires.

&uot;We just want to ask people that do have a permit to burn debris or do spring cleaning to be careful,&uot; said Huggins. &uot;Even though the grass is green it is still very dry.&uot;