State forestry officials urging caution with outdoor burning
by Daniel Gaddy
Jul 05, 2012 | 1805 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This tree, which was struck by lightning Sunday, was the starting point of a 15-acre wildfire that area forestry workers and firefighters fought this week. Photo special to the Eagle
This tree, which was struck by lightning Sunday, was the starting point of a 15-acre wildfire that area forestry workers and firefighters fought this week. Photo special to the Eagle
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Local officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission are urging residents to remain cautious about burning due to widespread drought conditions.

“This recent rain gives us a false sense of security,” said Forest Ranger Technician Jason Berry.

Berry and other local firefighters spent much of Tuesday afternoon containing a 15-acre forest fire that occurred about 4 miles off Highway 13 near the Fayette and Walker county line.

Berry said the blaze was set by a lightning strike on Sunday and went undetected until rainstorms quelled it on Monday. However, the vegetation quickly dried out and the smoldering ashes of Sunday’s fire were reignited Monday afternoon.

The drought scale used by the forestry commission and weather officials goes up to 800. Berry said Walker County was in the low 700s before Monday’s rain and was likely knocked down to the high 600s after the precipitation. However, any rating above 500 is still considered drought conditions, he said.

Berry said areas like Hale County received no rainfall Monday, and “they’re showing it today with fast moving fires.” He said officials in Hale County are now dealing with two 300-acre wildfires.

Berry said he is particularly concerned about a wildfire occurring in an area hit by the April 27 tornadoes. Many of those sites have hundreds of fallen trees that would be an ideal fuel sources for wildfires.

“If that happens, it’s going to be disastrous,” said Berry.

He said wildfires occurring in storm damaged areas represent an increased risk to firefighters.

Though the Alabama Forestry Commission has not issued a state-wide Drought Emergency, State Forester Linda Casey is urging everyone to use all necessary safety precautions when doing any type of outdoor burning.

The City of Jasper, however, is under a no-burn order.