Shelby County under no-burn order

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Unseasonably high temperatures and extremely dry conditions have forced the Alabama Forestry Commission to issue a no-burn order in all 67 counties in the state.

From Oct. 17-19, the Alabaster Fire Department responded to seven out-of-control brush fires throughout the city, all of which could have been prevented, said AFD Lt. Andy Garrett.

“The number of calls like that we respond to usually depends on how conscientious people are,” Garrett said.

The state has been under a burn ban since Sept. 23, and the Forestry Commission will keep the ban in effect until rainy weather returns, according to a commission press release.

The ban prohibits all outdoor burning in the state without a burn permit from the commission.

“The lack of rain and unseasonably high temperatures have left much of the state extremely dry, creating high risk potential for devastating wildfire,” said Forestry Commission Protection Division Director Dan Jackson, noting the ban was enacted earlier this year due to the dry conditions.

“Although the official start of the fall fire season in Alabama is not until October under normal conditions, the extremely dry weather this year has brought it on much sooner,” Jackson added. “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 Forestry Commission reported 459 wildfires in Alabama from Aug. 24-Sept. 23, compared to six wildfires during the same time in 2009. From Oct. 13-19, the commission reported 176 wildfires across the state.

Cooler fall weather can give residents a false sense of security when burning brush outside, Garrett said.

“At this time of year, with the weather changing, people like to get outside and do things,” Garrett said, noting many uncontrolled outdoor blazes begin as burning leaf piles. “It’s the first time a lot of people get a chance to get outside and do yard work and things like that.”

Burning anywhere in the state while a no-burn order is in effect without first obtaining a burn permit from the Forestry Commission can bring up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

“The fire alert will remain in effect until rescinded by the state forester, at which time conditions will have changed sufficiently to reduce the occurrence and frequency of wildfires,” read a Forestry Commission press release.

For more information about the no-burn order, or to obtain a burn permit, visit Forestry.alabama.gov.