Chief cautions against outdoor burning
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Atmore Fire Chief Ron Peebles doesn’t know just when it’s coming. But the veteran firefighter is sure that it is coming.
While no official drought declaration or burn ban has been issued or implemented by state fire officials, Peebles has seen his share of the grass and field fires that get out of hand each year or those that are intentionally or carelessly set.
He’s also seen his share of controlled outdoor fires that send passersby into a mild panic.
“Knock on wood, we haven’t had a real outdoor fire yet,” said the fire chief, who added that AFD units have been dispatched several times in recent weeks to reported outdoor fires, only to find each time that the blaze was under the control of an individual or group. “Most of the calls have been false alarms, controlled burns that didn’t look controlled to the people who see smoke or flames and assume it’s a wildfire or a grass fire.”
He pointed out that such calls tie up resources that might be needed on the other side of the county.
“Last Friday, we got a call about a field fire just outside of town,” Peebles said. “We looked all over Old Bratt Road until we finally found it, and it was somebody burning debris.”
Despite any official action at the state level, Atmore’s top fire official urged residents of the city and its outlying areas to refrain from doing any outdoor burning, at least until the area is blessed with a measurable amount of rainfall.
“People don’t need to burn anything outside until we get some significant rainfall, and I don’t mean just one thunderstorm,” said Peebles. “So far, in the last month, there’s been none to mention.”
According to www.weather.gov, Escambia County received only a trace amount of rain during May, except on seven days when at least a quarter inch was measured in some parts of the county. The majority of the month’s precipitation fell within a four-day period, from May 10 to 13.
Peebles said residents need to take note of how scarce rainfall has been, because there’s another thing he feels pretty sure is going to happen.
“Right now, that green grass will burn,” he said, pointing to the lawn outside AFD Station 1. “I just ask that people, if they would, refrain from burning anything outside until we have a couple of days of wet weather. We’re not under a fire ban, but we’re close.”
The area may get some relief due to a tropical disturbance in the Gulf that is expected to bring rain toward the end of the week.