July 1, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Forestry Commission, Alabama

12 North Alabama Counties Downgraded to Fire Alert

Officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission say ground moisture levels in 12 north Alabama counties have increased enough to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire, justifying downgrading these counties from Drought Emergency (No Burn) to Fire Alert. Counties included are: Lauderdale, Colbert, Franklin, Marion, Limestone, Lawrence, Winston, Madison, Morgan, Jackson, Marshall, and DeKalb.

 

Under a Fire Alert, trash and debris may be burned with caution, as may other small fires. Any fire more than a quarter-acre in size or within 25 feet of a forested area requires a permit from the Forestry Commission. Burning without a permit is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or up to a $3,000 fine.

 

The other 55 counties will remain under the current Drought Emergency (No Burn Order). Pursuant to this emergency rule it shall be unlawful, in all counties except those listed above, 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 until said declaration is lifted.  This declaration applies to all counties under Drought Emergency except centralized sites approved by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management or the Alabama Emergency Management Agency for burning of tornado-related debris. 

 

The drought emergency declaration does not prohibit the sale, possession, or use of any type of fireworks.  The Forestry Commission urges anyone who plans to use fireworks during the 4th of July weekend to exercise caution due to the extremely dry conditions in most of Alabama. Fireworks should be used in an open area away from woods and dry grass, with a garden hose or other water supply on hand.  People should also keep in mind that many cities in Alabama have ordinances prohibiting the use of fireworks within city limits, and many of those cities have announced that they will be enforcing their fireworks ordinances strictly because of the danger of wildfires.

 

The Commission will continue to monitor ground moisture levels throughout the state.  If ground fuels become exceptionally dry again, it may become necessary to re-issue a No Burn order in affected areas.

 

This Fire Alert in the 12 counties will remain in effect until lifted by the State Forester, at which time conditions will have changed sufficiently to reduce the occurrence and frequency of wildfires.  For more information contact any Alabama Forestry Commission county office or visit the Commission web page at www.forestry.alabama.gov.

 

The Alabama Forestry Commission is a state agency committed to protecting Alabama citizens and the state’s invaluable forest assets.

 

WHAT IS THE DROUGHT EMERGENCY DECLARATION?

Section 9-13-141 of the Code of Alabama states: “at such time as the state forestry commission has declared by regulation a drought emergency in any county or counties, it shall be unlawful in such county or counties for any person 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.”

Under regulations issued June 30, 2011, this prohibition has been put in place in all 55 counties in Alabama. Specifically, the regulation prohibits any prescribed burns, any campfire or bonfire, any trash or debris fires or any other open burning.

DO THE REGULATIONS COVER BARBEQUES?

The regulations allow barbeque fires for cooking IF the fire is in a charcoal grill or masonry barbeque pit, including large barbeque pits used by civic organizations to prepare food.  Anyone grilling or barbequing during the Drought Emergency should have water hoses on site to prevent any loose sparks from setting a wildfire, a circle at least 10 feet wide around the grill should be cleared of any burnable material. Side fires to generate coals for a barbeque must also be within a grill or masonry pit. Gas grills are allowed.

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE “CAMPFIRE OR BONFIRE” PROHIBITION?

Campfires or bonfires include any fire that is burned on bare-ground, even if surrounded by stones or in open dirt pits.  This includes campfires, ceremonial fires, “council” fires, bonfires, “warming” fires, and cooking fires that are on bare-ground and not in a masonry lined “pit”.

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE “TRASH OR DEBRIS FIRE” PROHIBITION?

Trash and debris fires include burning of woody debris, yard waste, garbage, construction debris or any other material, in either an open pit or in a barrel. At this point in time, people should not burn a debris pile until the Drought Emergency is lifted.  Tornado debris can be disposed of at one of the ADEM or EMA approved sites. Check with your local authorities for the nearest location.

WHAT OTHER THINGS ARE INCLUDED IN THE DROUGHT EMERGENCY?

The intent of the Drought Emergency Declaration is to prevent catastrophic wildfires during drought conditions. No one should have open flames in a woodland setting. At campsites, only closed lanterns may be used, not open flames like candles and “TIKI Torches.” Care should also be taken in suburban areas where lawns are also very dry.


WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATING THESE REGULATIONS?

Under Section 9-13-142, Code of Alabama, anyone found guilty of violating these regulations and improperly doing open burning in a Drought Emergency declared area shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $250.00 nor more than $500.00 and, at the discretion of the court, that person may also be sentenced to the county jail for up to six months.

In addition, any person burning in violation of the Drought Emergency Declaration, will be liable for damages to the property of another and any costs associated with the suppression of said fire. Suppression costs would include equipment and personnel costs related to control or extinguish the wildfire.

For more information or to report persons burning in violation of this law, contact the Alabama Forestry Commission
at  or visit http://www.forestry.alabama.gov/



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