By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Atmore Fire Department personnel definitely earned their pay over the seven-day period from October 3 to 9, responding to more than a dozen incidents, including two major wildfires.
AFD Chief Ron Peebles said those fires, as well as vehicle fires and calls of a less urgent nature marked one of the busiest periods in recent memory for his department.
“The last two weeks — as far as structure fires, grass fires, vehicle fires and other calls — have kept us the busiest we have been in a while,” he said.
The most recent incident occurred Monday, October 9, when AFD was called to assist Poarch after two separate wildfires broke out along Interstate 65.
The twin blazes created clouds of thick smoke that could be seen for miles and led Alabama Law Enforcement Agency officials to issue a travel advisory for the interstate.
Atmore, Poarch and Barnett’s Crossroads fire departments battled the outdoor inferno, as did numerous other agencies from the surrounding area.
“I can’t tell you how many fire departments were there, so many showed up,” said Peebles, who added that the catalyst for the fire was still unknown. “I have no idea what started it.”
The fire chief reported that a city firefighter was injured when the truck in which he was riding “hit a stump hole and caused his head to hit the windshield.” The injury was reportedly minor.
That call came on the heels of an October 3 brush fire near the junction of West Sunset Drive and Jack Springs Road. A person had burned some trash the previous day, and a wind-blown ember from that fire ignited a grassy meadow that threatened but never reached a large peanut field.
An estimated 50-to-100 acres were scarred by flames before that one was brought under control by Atmore and Poarch firefighters.
Among the other calls handled by AFD between October 3 and October 8:
*An unoccupied trailer was destroyed by fire on America Drive. Firemen fought the blaze for nearly two hours before extinguishing it.
*Firemen responded to Atmore Village Apartments (formerly Rotary Village), just across from their headquarters, when a grease fire erupted in one of the units.
*AFD assisted Poarch firefighters with a structure fire and spent nearly two hours fighting the blaze.
*A brush fire that ignited piles of railroad crossties sent firefighters to a West Avenue A location. A Maple Drive resident was reportedly burning trash, and the fire got out of control. AFD was called back to the scene twice when flames flared back up. Less than an acre of brush was involved.
*AFD assisted Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department when a tractor-trailer rig caught fire on Shadowwood Drive, just off U.S. 31. Firefighters fought the blaze, which was so intense it melted siding on a nearby mobile home, for about 45 minutes. The truck was a total loss.
*City firefighters were called to assist Poarch Fire Department with a brush fire near the intersection of Old Freemanville and Poarch roads, but the call was canceled while AFD was enroute.
*AFD crews were sent to South Road, where a trash fire got out of control and spread to a nearby grassy area. The fire took almost an hour to bring under control.
Peebles, who issued a burn ban within the city limits about a month ago, urged city and county residents to refrain from burning until the current drought ends.
“Please don’t burn anything,” he said. “It’s just too dry, so dry that green grass was burning at the fire near the interstate. We need days of rain, not just a little here and there.”