Three fires, 10 acres burned in county during March

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Special to the Reporter

Firefighters at both extremes of the state were busy Monday fighting wildfires that burned in 27 Alabama counties, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Shelby County has had 27 fires that consumed 225 acres and threatened 10 homes since Oct. 1, 2003.

During the month of March, Shelby has had three fires totaling 10 acres, reported Shelby County Forester Brad Lang.

Also, according to Lang,

263 fires have burned 3,643 acres in Alabama this month. And between Oct. 1 and March 8, 1,609 fires have burned 13,800 acres.

According to the Alabama Forestry Commission on Monday, March 8, 70 fires occurred in Alabama burning approximately 992 acres. Fire officials said even though we have received periodic rainfall, dry fronts have brought strong winds, rapidly drying out available fuel. The dry fuel and strong winds make it not only easier for fires to start but also makes them harder to control. Everyone is urged to take all necessary safety precautions when doing any type of outdoor burning.

Although 27 counties had fires two of the worst situations were Cleburne County in northeast Alabama and Mobile County in extreme south Alabama.

According to Cleburne County Manager Paul Williams, their situation began on March 5

with four arson fires that burned approximately 86 acres. The problem continued March 6 with one arson fire that threatened a home. On March 7, 10 burned approximately 423 acres, and AFC units from three counties were dispatched to suppress the fires.

On March 8, multiple units from Cleburne, Calhoun, and the U.S. Forest Service responded to two fires that burned 95 acres and threatened several homes and a church. Both fires were arson related.

A Commission law enforcement team was dispatched to the area and will continue with the arson investigation. During the four-day period, Piney Woods, Muscadine, Fruithurst, Abernathy and Macedonia Volunteer Fire Departments also assisted.

In Mobile County, 11 fires burned Monday for a total of 173 acres. The fires occurred in the Bayou La Batre and Irvington communities and were all arson fires. County Manager Steve Lyda said two Commission units and five fire departments responded to the fires. The departments responding were Bayou La Batre, Irvington, Grand Bay, Semmes and Georgetown. According to Lyda, six homes and several outbuildings were threatened as a result of these fires. Alabama Forestry Commission law enforcement officers have been called in and the fires continue to be investigated.

Officials with the AFC said anyone witnessing suspicious activity in the area of these fires or any other fire is urged to contact local authorities.

An arson hotline is available through the Commission for reporting suspected arsonists. The number is 1-800-222-2927. Anyone reporting information that leads to an arrest and conviction can collect up to $5,000 in reward money. You can remain anonymous.

According to the Alabama

Forestry Commission, it is currently operating with a 10 percent decrease in personnel due to state general fund budget cuts. With a decrease in manpower it is more difficult to move units from one area to another in order to provide adequate fire protection.

The public is urged to use all necessary safety precautions when doing any outdoor burning and to report any suspicious activity around fire scenes.

Counties having fires on March 8 included: Baldwin 4 fires &045; 1 acre; Barbour 3 fires &045; 9 acres; Bullock 1 fire &045; 10 acres; Butler 1 fire &045; 0 acres; Cherokee 3 fires &045; 39 acres; Choctaw 3 fires &045; 17 acres; Clay 1 fire &045; 12 acres; Cleburne 3 fires &045; 131 acres; Colbert 9 fires &045; 10 acres; Conecuh 3 fires &045; 44 acres; Crenshaw 1 fire &045; 2 acres; Dale 1 fire &045; 6 acres; Dallas 2 fires &045; 70 acres; Escambia 1 fire &045; 10 acres; Geneva 2 fires &045; 14 acres; Jackson 1 fire &045; 18 acres; Macon 1 fire &045; 70 acres; Mobile 11 fires &045; 173 acres; Perry 2 fires &045; 4 acres; Russell 5 fires &045; 163 acres; Talladega 1 fire &045; 4 acres; Tallapoosa 2 fires &045; 6 acres; Tuscaloosa 1 fire &045; 15 acres; Walker 1 fire &045; 8 acres; Washington 5 fires &045; 153 acres; Wilcox 1 fire &045; 1 acre