State issues burn ban on all outdoor fires

Published 5:41 pm Wednesday, June 8, 2011

State issued bans on controlled outdoor burnings are about as common in Alabama during the summer as the heat itself is.

Usually they’re issued in July, at the peak of summer. This year, the burn ban has been issued effective immediately.

The extreme heat and lack of rain led Gov. Robert Bentley to sign an Emergency Drought Condition Declaration prohibiting outdoor burning in all 67 counties Tuesday.

The ban includes trash burns, land-clearing fires, campfires and bonfires. In other words, unless it’s a grill, don’t light a match to it.

At this point, fireworks are not prohibited by law,” said Regional Forrester Bruce Springer. “But all other controlled burning is.”

Failure to comply with the burn ban could lead to a fine of up to $500 and six months in jail, but the damage done by the fires could come at a much higher price. Springer said he understood many desire to burn trash and even debris left from the tornado, but now is not the right time.

“Since January 1, we’ve had over 1800 fires burn over 41,000 acres,” said Springer. “We’re battling one that’s 2000 acres in Jefferson County. People just need to hold [debris] and store it until we lift the band. For their safety they need to just hold it.”

Jemison Fire Chief John Dennis said if people would follow the ban it would help everyone around the county.

“Hopefully everyone will abide by the ban, it’ll make for a safer environment for everyone,” he said. “Any fire [in conditions this dry] that gets out of hand can be dangerous.”

Dennis also said most large wildfires start from people’s lackadaisical attitudes.

“I think people have in mind ‘I’ll have a little fire, and I’ll be able to control it,'” he said. “In [these weather] conditions, there’s no such thing.”

Large wildfires also put a strain on smaller fire departments in the form of heat exhaustion. Dennis said that while his department trains to deal with extreme heat, it doesn’t make dealing with it any less difficult.

“With the gear we have, it protects us from the heat,” he said. “But it doesn’t allow our body heat to escape, so it makes it worse on us. We train on how to deal with it, but still, [the heat] makes it worse.”

For more information on the heat band, contact the Alabama Forestry Commission at (205) 755-3042.