State’s risk of wildfires on the rise

Published 3:11 pm Friday, June 29, 2012

It’s hot as fire outside, and that has officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission worried.

Forestry officials say that the dry weather, low humidity, extreme heat and gusty winds the state has been experiencing in recent weeks have increased the risk of wildfires in Alabama.

In the last seven days, there have been 86 wildfires that have burned more than 974 acres, including nearly five acres in Butler County. In the last 30 days, more than 2,919 acres have been damaged by 145 wildfires.

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“The continued dry spell we are in has increased fire activity,” said Balsie Butler, AFC fire operations chief.

Butler said that Tropical Storm Debby has also had an impact.

“The wind from the storm has caused things to dry out a lot faster than it normally would,” he said. “When you can grab a green leaf and crumble it up in your hand and it breaks into a bunch of pieces, it’s time to start worrying.”

The threat of wildfires across the state isn’t expected to decrease anytime soon since the weather forecast doesn’t include much rain during the next two weeks.

While a no burn order has not yet been issued, the state Forestry Commission is still urging “everyone to use all necessary safety precautions when doing any type of outdoor burning,” and to obtain a burn permit from the county dispatch center.

According to the AFC’s website, “a burn permit is required for all forestry and agricultural burns. In general, the permit means the burner has the manpower and equipment to control the fire and agrees to stay with the fire until it is out. Even though the burner has a permit, he/she is still responsible for any damage to others that may be caused by the fire or smoke. Alabama has a certified burner law designed to reduce burner liability.

“Even though the law requires a permit for all ‘wood and field’ fires, the AFC has administratively exempted fires smaller than 1/4 acre if it is more than 25 feet from a forested area. However, the burner is still responsible for the fire.”