By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Despite the rain that has fallen this week in the Atmore area, as well as forecasts for more rain over the next two weeks, state and local bans on outdoor burning remain in place.
“We haven’t had enough rain to change things yet,” Atmore Fire Chief Ron Peebles said during the most recent city council meeting. “It’s going to take a long, soaking rain before the threat of wildfire is gone.”
The local fire chief issued in August a ban on all outdoor burning within Atmore’s city limits.
Gov. Kay Ivey followed suit last week, issuing a statewide Drought Emergency Declaration, often referred to as a “No Burn Order,” that prohibits all outdoor burning in the state.
“Alabama is currently experiencing extremely dry conditions, which greatly increases the potential for dangerous wildfire activity,” Ivey said “State Forester Rick Oates and his team have been working around-the-clock to keep our forests safe and fires contained, and I commend them for their efforts to protect Alabamians, our homes and our wildlife. This declaration is meant to prevent unnecessary burning, reducing the chance of avoidable fires. I urge Alabamians to heed this warning.”
A statewide Fire Alert was issued on October 24. Since then, Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) firefighters had by late last week responded to 352 wildfires that had burned 3,199 acres across the state.
Long-range weather forecasts call for a rainfall chance of nearly 100 percent in the area late Tuesday and throughout Wednesday. Except for two days, a low or moderate chance of rain exists each day through November 28.
State Forester Rick Oates agreed the rain expected over the coming days probably would not be enough to overcome the dry conditions across the entire state.
“These burning restrictions are a necessary result of the ongoing lack of precipitation and high probability of fuel ignition,” Oates said. “During the last month, we’ve seen an increase not only in the number of wildfires, but also in the size of those fires. With this prolonged drought, conditions are such that any outdoor fire can rapidly spread out of control, taking longer – and more firefighting resources – to contain and ultimately control.”
The governor’s emergency declaration order will remain in effect until rescinded by Oates. Those who violate the order could face fines or even jail time.
To report persons burning in violation of this law, residents are asked to contact their local law enforcement agencies. For more information on the current wildfire situation in the state, visit Alabama Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.alabama.gov.