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Fire on the side of a road.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—The Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) issued a statewide fire alert during the week of Sept. 25. Permits for outdoor burning will be restricted and issued on an individual basis at the discretion of the State Forester. Those who choose to burn a field, grassland or woodland without a burn permit may be subject to prosecution for committing a Class B misdemeanor.

More than 35 percent of the state is experiencing some level of drought conditions. Several Wiregrass counties have been in D-2 drought for nearly eight weeks. Shelby County is experiencing extreme drought. The remaining 64 percent of the state are considered abnormally dry.

Alabama Extension forestry and natural resources agent Spenser Bradley said while there is not a statewide burn ban, it is important to take proper steps to ensure safety and prevent widespread fire during the drought.

“The AFC can award burn permits on a case-by-case basis,” Bradley said. “However, I would not recommend burning right now. The only exception would be a site-prep burn with the right personnel and equipment. In forests, the likelihood of injuring or killing trees with fire is high right now.”

Burning hay balesPlenty of Fuel for Fires

Due to the prolonged lack of rainfall in the state, there is plenty of dry material along roadways, on farms and in yards to sustain a fire.

An Autauga County row crop farmer and cattle producer lost 65 round bales of hay after a fire started near the roadside and spread into an adjacent pasture. A quick response by local and neighboring fire departments, rescue squads and the county Forestry Commission prevented the fire’s spread.

Landowner Fire Safety Tips

Bradley said there are several important safety points for landowners to keep in mind during drought times.

  • Install fire breaks. Fire breaks can help limit the severity of fires and prevent fires from spreading.
  • Conduct prescribed burns throughout the year. Regular burning will remove fuel sources and can help prevent severe and widespread wildifires.
  • Clean up roadsides. Cutting and cleaning up roadside debris can help limit fuel for fires that start on the roadside.
  • Limit property access. Maintain fences and keep gates intact. This will deter trespassers who may camp or start fires.

Homeowner Fire Safety Tips

 Bradley said homeowners can also take steps to ensure fire safety around the home.

  • Do not plant large plants or trees next to the house. Tall shrubs and trees should be at least 10 feet from the house. Homeowners are advised to look for plants that are more fire tolerant.
  • Trim branches that reach towards the home. Rake up leaves. Maintaining a neat and tidy flowerbed or yard will remove potential fire fuel.
  • Store firewood and other combustible materials away from the house. Storing firewood and propane tanks away from the house will remove a large potential fuel source.
  • Take caution when using burn barrels. When using a burn barrel, be sure it is at least 25 feet away from structures, woodlands, and other flammable materials.
  • Make your home easily accessible. Take care to maintain a wide driveway in order to make it easy for emergency vehicles to get to your home.

Alabama Wildfires in 2019

AFC reports that wildland firefighters have responded to 574 wildfires across Alabama in the past 30 days, burning more than 7,200 acres. These numbers include a 470-acre fire in Talladega County, one 391-acre fire in DeKalb County, a 589-acre fire in Covington County and several over 100 acres in the past three weeks, according to the AFC. However, these numbers do not include acreage harmed by fires put out by volunteer fire departments across the state.

The fire alert will remain effective until rescinded by the State Forester, at which time conditions would be less conducive to the occurrence of widespread wildfires.

More Information

To report a wildfire, call the Alabama Forestry Commission at (800) 392-5679. For more information on the current wildfire situation in the state or the fire alert, contact the local AFC office or visit the Alabama Forestry Commission website.

Find more drought resources by visiting Alabama Extension’s drought website, www.alabamadrought.com.

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