October 20, 2010

State of Alabama
Press Release: Forestry Commission, Alabama

Protecting Alabama Communities from Wildfires a Top Priority for the USDA Forest Service and Alabama Forestry Commission

October is Wildfire Prevention Month!  The USDA Forest Service and the Alabama Forestry Commission have a long-standing partnership that unites numerous federal, state and local fire specialists at a moment’s notice to protect Alabama communities and natural resources from dangerous wildfires. 

 “The cooperative efforts by the USDA Forest Service, the Alabama Forestry Commission and local fire departments are remarkable,” said Miera C. Nagy, Forest Service supervisor for Alabama’s national forests.  “We are taking an all lands approach as we work together to help prevent wildfires through the use of control burns and education; and we respond to wildfire threats that could destroy forests or property.”

Just recently, firefighters successfully saved several homes in northeast Alabama from destruction.  According to Jeremy Brand, a U.S. Forest Service assistant fire management officer for the Talladega District, firefighters were suppressing a wildfire on the top side of a ridge approximately 3 miles south of Piedmont, Alabama.  Suddenly, while fighting the wildfire in the Talladega National Forest, members of the fire crew spotted a second blaze to the west that appeared to be dangerously close to the edge of Piedmont. The firefighters worked their way down the ridge to the scene of the new wildfire. “We ordered the use of the helicopter that was being used by the Forest Service to observe what was being threatened,” said Brand.  They reported back that a number of homes were in the path of the wildfire.

Kenneth Harbison, an Alabama Forestry Commission employee, contacted the landowners and served as a liaison with them to identify possible water sources. Bucket drops of water from the Forest Service’s helicopter were used to slow the advance of the wildfire until the Alabama Forestry Commission’s bulldozer arrived on site to create a fire break.  This is just one of many examples where the two agencies work together for Alabamians. 

A cooperative fire agreement between the Forest Service and the Alabama Forestry Commission allows the agencies to share resources to respond  to emergencies.  The partnership brings state and federal natural resource managers together to develop solutions to manage threats that impact all boundaries such as wildfires, southern pines beetles or cogongrass.

“With the reduction of Alabama Forestry Commission personnel, it’s critical that we work together for the safety of all Alabama citizens,” said State Forester Linda Casey.  Since September 1, Alabama Forestry Commission firefighters have responded to 1,203 wildfires in the state, damaging 10,488 acres.  This year, the Forest Service responded to 39 wildfires that took place in Alabama’s national forests.

Dry conditions increase the chance and intensity of a wildfire.  A build-up of fuels, such as dead trees and brush, when combined with drought, causes a tinderbox. Conditions in many areas are described as potentially explosive for wildfires.

The hot and dry late summer weather conditions, along with lower than average rainfall prompted the Alabama Forestry Commission and the Forest Service to issue fire alerts that restricts outdoor burning and fire use.   Please contact a Forest Service district office before your trip, and check the bulletin boards when you arrive for current restrictions and safety messages. Safety is a number one concern for all forest visitors, especially hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts who really utilize the national forest during the fall season. 

Contact a local Alabama Forestry Commission Office if you plan to burn on your own property. Because conditions are dangerously dry, there may be burn restrictions or special permits to obtain before you can light a fire.

If you must burn, be smart. Stay with your fire, have water and tools to smother the fire, keep a telephone nearby in case of an emergency, and don't leave your fire until it is cold to the touch.   Crush cigarettes in ashtrays while driving and refrain from parking motorized vehicles in dry brush.  If a wildfire is spotted, call 911 to notify local authorities.

For more information about fire restrictions or wildfire alerts, visit these websites: www.forestry.alabama.gov, www.fs.fed.us/r8/alabama; or contact the U.S. Forest Service - 334-832-4470 and the Alabama Forestry Commission- 334-240-9357.



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