Multiple fires break out

Published 4:26 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Authorities are investigating at least 10 fires in southeastern Chilton County yesterday afternoon.

A man was charged with DUI Tuesday and was thought to be connected with the blazes, but authorities have since ruled him out. As of Wednesday afternoon, Alabama Forestry Commission investigator Danny Clark said they are still investigating leads including another suspicious vehicle in the area of the fires.

“We don’t believe the person arrested for DUI is connected with the case,” Clark said. “We’re still trying to follow up on leads including some track impressions that we haven’t identified with the vehicle.”

Initially, Verbena Fire Department was dispatched to a brush fire on County Road 487 shortly after 3:30 p.m.

Within minutes, East Chilton responded to multiple fires on County Road 480, including one structure fire of an abandoned mobile home.

In all there were at least six fires confirmed in the 480 area, which extended from the 1000th block to the 9000th block, down to the Dixie Camp area.

Verbena was then dispatched to at least four other brush fires in the area of County Roads 438 and 439, the largest of which extended to near the 202-mile marker of I-65.

Clanton and Enterprise fire departments also responded along with officials from the Alabama Department of Forestry.

“We went down there and extinguished what we could,” said Dan Wright, deputy chief of East Chilton Fire Department. “Luckily, most of it was in remote areas so it wasn’t endangering any occupied structures.”

Forestry officials had to get off the main road in order to contain the flames. Wright said forestry officials were cutting a fire line around the area when he left the scene about 6 p.m.

Although the fires have not officially been ruled arson, Davis believes they could have been set intentionally.

“The fires happened so close together and in a short period of time that we believe they were arson,” Davis said. “We’re still investigating the possibility of the whether the fires are linked.”

The Alabama Department of Forestry is the lead-investigating agency of the incidents.