Gov. Robert Bentley announced the entire state of Alabama is now under a Drought Emergency Declaration. Effective as of 3 p.m. Monday, all 67 Alabama counties have been placed under a No Burn Order, with all outdoor burning prohibited due to the high risk of wildfires.
According to the governor’s office, since the first of October, a total of 1,421 wildfires have occurred in Alabama, destroying approximately 15,409 acres of land. Last year in the same time frame, there were only 232 wildfires, burning 1,846 acres across 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,” Bentley said in a statement released Monday. “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.”
Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) wildland firefighters are currently battling a 700-acre blaze that has burned since Friday in Walker County. Over the weekend, other large wildfires burned in Baldwin, Coosa. and Wilcox counties, affecting several property owners.
“With these extremely dry conditions, any fire can quickly spread out of control, explained Interim State Forester Gary Cole of the AFC. “Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen an increase not only in the number of wildfires that have occurred, but also the size. 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.”
Under the Drought Emergency No Burn Order, 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.
The No Burn order will remain in effect until rescinded by the state forester, when conditions will have changed sufficiently to reduce the occurrence and frequency of wildfires.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 forestry.alabama.gov.