LADONIA, AL (WTVM) - The extremely dry weather this year has caused the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) to put the entire state under a fire alert.
Andy Guy, Alabama Forestry Commission, Auburn Unit Manager, said, "The intensity of the fires has increased. It is harder to control. We do not want to try and restrict people with what they can do with burning."
A fire alert means permitted burns are restricted. If you are burning more than a quarter acre in Alabama, you have to have a permit. Guy said these permits will be very hard to come by until the alert is lifted.
The Forestry Commission asks people to take every precaution. Do not be fooled by one good rain. "These dry conditions did not occur overnight. They are not going to go away with one rain."
Guy said the AFC has recently faced numerous cutbacks, so the increased number and size of these wildfires is a major concern. "The work force is stressed. It spreads us out. The fire commission alone is facing major budget cuts. We have reduced our work force by 30%," explained Guy.
For more information, check out: http://www.forestry.alabama.gov. To see if your community is at risk for a wildfire, click here.
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Press Release Issued by the Alabama Forestry Commission:
Effective 10:00 a.m. Thursday, September 23, 2010, all 67 counties in the state of Alabama have been placed under a Fire Alert. The order was issued today by State Forester Linda S. Casey.
According to officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC), the Fire Alert was issued because of extremely dry weather conditions, the increased number of fires that have occurred recently, and reduced availability of suppression resources. While under the Fire Alert, outdoor burning is restricted.
In the last 30 days, 459 wildfires have occurred in Alabama burning approximately 4,743 acres of land. In comparison, the AFC battled only six wildfires during the whole month of September 2009.
"The lack of rain and unseasonably high temperatures have left much of the state extremely dry, creating high risk potential for devastating wildfire," said Dan Jackson, AFC Protection Division Director. "With no significant rainfall in more than a month, many Alabama counties are experiencing an increase in wildfire occurrence. Although the official start of fall 'fire season' in Alabama is not until October under normal conditions, the extremely dry weather this year has brought it on much sooner. Conditions are such that any fire can quickly spread out of control, not only resulting in damage to our forests but also threatening and destroying homes."
The elevated number and size of wildfires is a major concern for the AFC which has recently faced cutbacks. Jackson stated, "Even though our staff and firefighting resources are reduced, the Alabama Forestry Commission is committed to protecting the state's invaluable forest assets, as well as serving the citizens and landowners across the state. We need landowners to be aware of the wildfire risks, and we urge everyone to take all precautions to prevent the start of fires. The continued support of our volunteer fire departments is also crucial. This partnership is vitally important in helping us protect lives and property."
This Fire Alert will remain in effect until rescinded by the State Forester, at which time conditions will have changed sufficiently to reduce the occurrence and frequency of wildfires. For more information on the current wildfire situation in the state, visit the AFC website at www.forestry.alabama.gov/fire_totals.aspx.