CULLMAN COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — A wildfire that has been chewing through tornado debris in Cullman has now destroyed 390 acres, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission. Officials still don’t know the cause of the fire that has kept them working since 3:00 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
The weather has been a perfect storm for the flames. The bone-dry conditions, lack of humidity, and high winds have made containing the fire difficult, according to crews. Arkadelphia Fire Chief Leon Smith estimated that it had jumped their fire lines at least 30 times. “The biggest thing are the sparks flying across the road and catching the grass on the other side on fire,” he said. “In one instance, we had the spark that was 50 feet off the road on the opposite side of the highway, and it caught on fire.”
First responders from multiple agencies worked to contain the flames into the early hours of the morning and all day Friday. The Red Cross arrived on the scene with food and drinks for the firefighters.
“We have some structures right now that are in danger,” explained Coleen Vansant, public information officer with the Alabama Forestry Commission. “We’re trying to protect those structures.”
Many of those structures are across the street from where the fire is tearing across a hilly and heavily wooded area. Tracey Kerbler lives over there one 150 acres where she also keeps Scottish Highland cattle. “It looked like it was just right outside our pasture,” she said.
Kerbler gathered the cattle into a smaller pin, further away from the road and the flames. She also worked to clear pine straw that could further fuel the fire away from her property. “There’s so little I can do other than just talk with the firefighters and see if they need anything,” she said.
Due to the weather conditions, first responders have gotten the fire contained, only to have it break through lines moments later. “The winds will be out of the east at one point, and then they’ll be from the west,” explained Vansant. “Probably eight to twelve miles an hour, right now. They’re just shifting constantly.”
As of 5:00 p.m., fire crews told neighbors that the flames appeared to be back under control, however, they say even under the best of circumstances, the fire will continue to smoulder for days, and it will have to be monitored.