June 9, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Forestry Commission, Alabama

Two Large Wildfires Continue to Burn in Alabama as Governor Issues Statewide Burn Ban

     As of Thursday morning, Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) officials were cautiously optimistic that a wildfire that has consumed over 2,943 acres in Jefferson County, while not extinguished, is partially “contained,” meaning that the line around the fire is holding. Since Saturday afternoon, AFC wildland firefighters from 14 counties have been working with wildland fire suppression bulldozers to bring this raging wildfire under control near the small Adger community north of Hueytown, with the assistance of several volunteer fire departments and other local stakeholders.

     Burning in timber that was downed by the April tornados, this fire not only behaved erratically but also proved extremely difficult to contain. Although firefighters worked hard to catch all the “jumps” in the fire line as quickly as possible, the flame escaped the line a couple times, causing alarm and endangering homes and property in its path.

     AFC law enforcement officers have arrested Kevin Keef, a 25-year-old man from Adger, in connection with starting this fire. He was charged with violating Alabama fire law 9-13-11, (b(3)), for his failure to adequately clear the area around a debris pile he was burning. If convicted, he may face a fine up to $3,000 and/or up to six months in jail.

     Meanwhile, a second large wildfire has been burning in the Seminole area of Baldwin County near the Florida state line. For the last five days, AFC wildland firefighting crews have been battling the 1,300-acre blaze, the result of a lightning strike, with the aid of volunteer fire departments. Smoke from the wildfire created visibility problems for motorists in both Alabama and Florida for several days. As of Thursday morning, Alabama Forestry Commission officials reported that although it continues to burn and will be monitored carefully, the wildfire has finally been contained.

     The extreme weather conditions are taking a toll on the health and safety of the firefighters as well. One AFC wildland firefighter was airlifted to a Pensacola hospital on Sunday night where he was treated and released for heat exhaustion and carbon monoxide inhalation. He is now reported in good condition but has not yet returned to duty.

     The combination of current drought conditions, unseasonably high temperatures, low relative humidity, and reduced availability of fire suppression resources, compounded by the large amount of timber and debris on the ground from the April tornados, has created an atmosphere where the probability of catastrophic fire activity is high. In the last 30 days, 365 wildfires have burned across approximately 10,472 acres of land in Alabama. As a result, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued a formal Declaration of Emergency Drought Condition on Tuesday, June 7 at the request of State Forester Linda Casey. All 67 counties in the state of Alabama were placed under the Drought Emergency, often referred to as a “No Burn Order,” which prohibits all outdoor burning. The only exemptions to this order are the tornado-related debris disposal sites approved by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) or the Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA).

    Under the Drought Emergency rule, it is illegal for any person to set fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes; to build a campfire or bonfire; or to burn trash or other material that may cause a forest, grass, or woods fire. If convicted, the penalty for violating the No Burn Order is a fine of up to $500 and/or up to six months in jail. This No Burn Order will remain in effect until conditions change sufficiently to reduce the occurrence and frequency of wildfires. The limited amount of rain that fell in scattered areas of the state this week is not expected to relieve the situation significantly.

     The Alabama Forestry Commission is committed to protecting the state’s invaluable forest assets, as well as

serving the citizens and landowners across Alabama. For more information on the wildfire situation in the state, visit the agency’s website at www.forestry.alabama.gov/fire_totals.aspx.

  • For more information, visit http://forestry.alabama.gov
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