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Drought Brings Growing Fire Risk

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama is a warm and wet state. Since the middle of this summer however it has been warmer than usual and very dry. 90 degree temperatures have persisted later into October than ever before and rains have been few and very lite (if at all) over much of the state. This has greatly increased the fire risk in this heavily forested state.

On Thursday, October 20, 2016, the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) wrote in a statement, “Although the cold front moving into Alabama today will bring with it some much needed rain it will by no means break the drought that has strangled our state for the past two months. If the predictions hold, tomorrow and Saturday could bring about worse conditions than we are seeing right now. The Alabama Forestry Commission is reminding everyone that the Drought Emergency Declaration is still in effect and it will take much more rain than is forecasted to downgrade or eliminate the no burning order.”

According to the Forestry Commission, “In the last 30 days, Alabama has had 902 wildfires which have burned 11,019 acres. This represents 42-percent of the wildfires that have occurred this year and 39-percent of this calendar years’ total acres burned of 28,097.”

On Wednesday, October 12 Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) signed a Drought Emergency Declaration due to extremely dry conditions. The declaration, often referred to as a ‘No Burn Order’, prohibits all outdoor burning for 46 counties in north and central Alabama.

Gov. Bentley said, “The current drought condition in our state is posing a serious threat for wildfires. The continued lack of rain combined with low relative humidity and strong winds are putting several counties at a very high risk. This declaration is meant to prevent unnecessary burning, reducing the chance of avoidable fires.”

The No Burn Order counties include: Autauga, Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, and Winston.

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Additionally, the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) has issued a Fire Alert for the remaining counties in south Alabama, effective immediately.

State Forester Gary Cole said, “We need rain desperately. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve seen an increase, not only in the number of wildfires, but also in the size of these fires. Several of them have been very large wildfires. With this extremely dry weather, 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. These burning restrictions are a necessary result of the ongoing lack of precipitation, the recent increased number of fires, high probability of fuel ignition, as well as the reduced availability of firefighting manpower and suppression resources across the state.”

For more information on the current wildfire situation in the state, visit the Alabama Forestry Commission’s website.


Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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