Gov. Bentley expands drought emergency, burn ban to all of Alabama

Source: Alabama Forestry Commision website at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2016
Source: Alabama Forestry Commision website at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The entire state of Alabama is now under a Drought Emergency Declaration, effective as of 3 p.m. Monday. This means all 67 counties in the state are under a no burn order, which prohibits all outdoor burning.

46 counties were already under the order, but Bentley says the dangerous wildfire conditions make it necessary to expand to the remaining counties in the southern part of the state.

“Although 46 counties in North Alabama were already under the No Burn Order, it was necessary to add the remaining 21 counties in the southern part of the state because of alarming wildfire activity and continued lack of rainfall,” Governor Bentley said. “The expansion of this No Burn Order is critical to keeping our citizens safe from the threat of wildfires and reducing the chance of avoidable fires.”

1,421 wildfires since the beginning of October have destroyed about 15,409 acres of land. Last year in the same time period, there were only 232 wildfires across the state.

Firefighters are currently battling a 700 acre blaze in Walker County that has burned since Friday. Other large wildfires occurred in Baldwin, Coosa and Wilcox County.

Interim Forester Gary Cole says the order results from the prolonged drought. As of Monday, there has not been rain in Birmingham in 50 days, and there doesn’t seem to be any relief from the drought in the short term forecasts.

“With these extremely dry conditions, any fire can quickly spread out of control. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen an increase not only in the number of wildfires that have occurred, but also the size,” Cole explained. “Several of these fires have been large, not only resulting in damage to our forests but also directly threatening residential areas. If not for the efforts of Forestry Commission firefighters and assistance from volunteer fire departments we would have lost homes.”

So what does the burn ban mean for you? A press release from the Office of the Governor explains:

Under the Drought Emergency ‘No Burn’ Order, Section 9-13-141 of the Code of Alabama states that it is illegal 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. Specifically, the regulation prohibits any prescribed burns, any campfire or bonfire, any trash or debris fires, or any other open burning. If convicted, the penalty for violating the No Burn order is up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.00.

The ‘No Burn’ order will remain in effect until rescinded by the State Forester, at which time conditions will have changed sufficiently to reduce the occurrence and frequency of wildfires. To report persons burning in violation of this law, contact your local law enforcement. For more information on the current wildfire situation in the state, visit Alabama Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.alabama.gov.

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