Burn ban remains active
Gov. Robert Bentley Oct. 12 signed a Drought Emergency Declaration in light of 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 – including Franklin.
“The current drought condition in our state is posing a serious threat for wildfires,” Bentley said. “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 declaration comes after a Fire Danger Warning that was quickly upgraded to a Fire Alert, issued by the Alabama Forestry Commission. Southern Alabama counties are still under the Fire Alert.
“We need rain desperately,” state forester Gary Cole said. “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.”
Russellville Fire Chief Joe Mansell urged citizens to use caution in these conditions. “With no rain and the way the humidity is, any spark in the grass or woods right now is going to create a fire,” Mansell said. “It’s just not a good time to be doing any burning … It doesn’t appear we have any rain in the next few days’ forecast. Anything that needs to be burned can wait for a while until we get some rain.”
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (droughtmonitor.unl.edu), Franklin County falls in the “severe drought” range – conditions not as severe as northeast Alabama, much of which is classified in the extreme to exceptional drought range currently, but nevertheless creating a situation that demands caution.
In the City of Russellville, a city ordinance governs burning, and Mansell said “if you have anything you’re wanting to try to burn, just call the street department, get it to the road and let the street department handle it.” Anyone who is planning to burn in the City of Russellville once conditions improve should call the Russellville Fire Department at 256-332-8761 for more information on regulations.
In Franklin County, Mansell encouraged citizens to call the fire department that represents their district before doing any burning. With this “very severe” situation, Mansell also warned it will take more than just a little rain to bring about safer conditions for burning.
Cole added, “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.”
Since the first of October, a total of 910 wildfires have destroyed over 10,000 acres across the state, according to AFC fire officials.
As defined by the AFC, a Drought Emergency makes it unlawful to “‘set fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes or to build a campfire or bonfire or to burn trash or other material that may cause a forest, grass or woods fire.’ Specifically, the regulation prohibits any prescribed burns, any campfire or bonfire, any trash or debris fires, or any other open burning.” Penalties for violation, which is a misdemeanor, include a fine from $250-500 and up to six months jail time, in addition to liability for any ensuing damage to another’s property and costs associated with suppression of fire.
The Drought Emergency Declaration order 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. To report persons burning in violation of this law, contact local law enforcement. For more information on the current wildfire situation in the state, visit www.forestry.alabama.gov.