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Fire on the side of a road.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—While recent rains are welcome, they did not completely break the drought impacting much of the state. Wildfires remain possible, according to a spokesperson for a USDA Forest Service team on the ground in Alabama. Logan Hatch said Alabama citizens should not become complacent.

“We want to ensure people understand that we need 9 to 15 inches of rain within a four-week period to break the drought,” Hatch said. “The Fire Prevention and Education Team will be conducting activities to increase public awareness and reduce human-caused wildfires.”

The team is concentrating its efforts in the Wiregrass region, as well as all of the state’s national forests.

“People can expect to see us at the Peanut Festival, county fairs and other public meetings,” Hatch said. “We will also be doing outreach to campers and other visitors to the four national forests.”

While the statewide fire alert issued by the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) has been lifted, more than 52 percent of the state is experiencing some level of drought conditions. About 22 percent of the state is considered abnormally dry, and just over 25 percent of the state is drought-free.

Alabama Extension forestry and natural resources agent Spenser Bradley said it is important to take proper steps to ensure safety and prevent widespread fire during the drought.

“I would not recommend burning right now,” said Bradley. “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.”

Hatch agrees with Bradley—despite recent rains, abundant fuel remains to feed wildfires.

Driver Fire Safety Tips

  • Secure chains. Chains dragging between a vehicle and trailer can throw sparks and can cause wildfires.
  • Be cautious near dry vegetation. Do not drive, idle or park vehicles on dry vegetation. Hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires.

Landowner Fire Safety Tips

  • 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 wildfires. Be sure to obtain all necessary permits.
  • Clean up roadsides. Cut and clean up roadside debris to limit fuel for fires that start along roads.
  • Limit property access. Maintain fences and keep gates intact. This will deter trespassers who may camp or start fires.

Homeowner Fire Safety Tips

  • 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. Maintain a neat flowerbed or yard to remove potential fire fuel.
  • Store firewood and other combustible materials away from the house. Store firewood and propane tanks away from the house removes a large potential fuel source.
  • Make your home easily accessible. Maintain a wide driveway in order to make it easy for emergency vehicles to get to your home.

Alabama Wildfires in 2019

Alabama is experiencing drought conditions consistent with those of 2016. That year, the state experienced record-breaking wildfires when 4,000 fires burned over 49,000 acres statewide. In 2019, the state has experienced around 1466 fires which burned almost 19,500 acres.  In the last 30 days, there have been 441 wildfires.

More Information

To report a wildfire, call the AFC 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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