Wildfires taking a toll on fire fighters, forestry commission

A firefighter stands near a wildfire in Middletown, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. Two of California's fastest-burning wildfires in decades overtook several Northern California towns, killing at least one person and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A firefighter stands near a wildfire in Middletown, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. Two of California's fastest-burning wildfires in decades overtook several Northern California towns, killing at least one person and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

 

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Over the past several weeks we’ve covered more wildfires than residents can probably keep track of and with the state under a stage three drought, combating these fires has taken its toll on those who fight them.

In the past 30 days alone there has been over 1,100 wildfires across the state of Alabama and for the people who continue to fight these fires they are often understaffed and overworked.

“We expect a certain amount of fire every fire season, fall fire season, but this year we’re going into it with a drought, a severe drought, and extreme drought in some places,” said Colleen Vansant of the Alabama Forestry Commission.

With that comes fire after fire after fire and for the Alabama Forestry Commission, who doesn’t have the biggest of staffs, the high number of fires have been a strain.

“If the fire is burning at six o’clock in the morning those people are on it, if the fire is burning at 10 o’clock at night, those people are on it, we don’t have the luxury of having different shifts that come in and out,” Vansant said.

On the flip side, fire fighters are feeling it as well, “we are extremely tired,” said Verrick Heckman of the Bagley Fire Department.

They too are often understaffed and overworked and at this point in the severe drought they want any help they can get.

“We’re really short handed on personnel, anybody that would consider doing this for a career we would love to talk to you, we’d love to hire some folks,” Heckman said.

But as tough as this job us, fire fighters and the forestry commission are running off of more than energy, “they are running off of heart right now because they love what they do and they are are serious about what they do and are proud of what they do,” Vansant said.

Wednesday alone, the state had 39 wildfires.

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