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Dry conditions lead to increased fire risk in northern Alabama


DECATUR, AL (WHNT) – Lack of precipitation has led to severe drought conditions across North Alabama. The drought conditions we are experiencing, combined with occasional wind gusts exceeding 15 mph, have increased the risk of fire in the area.

Terry Ezzel, northwest regional forester for the Alabama Forestry Commission, says last weekend there were 52 active fires in Alabama, including 18 here in north Alabama.

One of those fires in Lawrence County reignited, which Ezzel said happens frequently in times of drought. This is because the soil is dry almost a foot deep, as are the roots of the plants.

  • Lawrence County Fire 2
  • Lawrence County fire 1

“Dry roots and such can smolder underground and appear on the other side of our line,” says Ezzel.

Although there were 18 fires in north Alabama over the weekend, as of Monday evening they were all contained. This means there is a fire route around and it continues to be monitored. In extremely dry conditions like this, the Forestry Commission does not control the fire until every ember is extinguished.

It is important to monitor conditions daily and, to help cover more ground, aircraft are used. In the event of an increase in fires, they will patrol twice a day. Sometimes, when not fighting fires or working on their equipment, Forestry Commission members travel and patrol themselves.

In the coming days, the risk of rain appears minimal for the region. Ezzel says they are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

“We can move resources as we need to areas of the state as they become drier and that’s what we’ll be looking for in the long term,” Ezzel says.

A fire alert remains in effect in the area, meaning that to burn more than a quarter acre of land you must have a permit. If you are caught burning more than a quarter acre, it is a misdemeanor.

To view a map of ongoing wildfires, you can visit the Alabama Forestry Commission website.


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