Detection and Control
Protecting Alabama’s rural areas from wildfire is the number one priority of the Alabama Forestry Commission. Wildfires burn thousands of acres of forestlands in our state every year. Through the efforts of the Forestry Commission and local volunteer fire departments, those wildfires are decreasing, but they still take a major toll on Alabama’s forest resources.
The Forestry Commission has a modern aggressive detection system that allows us to discover and suppress wildfires in the most efficient way possible. A fleet of airplanes regularly patrols over the forest and looks for wildfires. In addition the public can report wildfires 24 hours a day through a toll-free telephone system. When a fire is reported, a dispatch center sends Forestry Commission crews and volunteer fire departments as needed to suppress it.
Volunteer fire departments are an essential part of the team when it comes to suppressing wildfires. The Forestry Commission works to help establish, train and maintain rural community fire departments in every county. This strong partnership of government and volunteer agencies working together provides cost efficient, effective fire service.
The Forestry Commission suppresses a wildfire by building a “fire break” which contains the fire by removing fuel from the fire so it cannot spread. These breaks are built using a bulldozer outfitted with a fireplow, which cuts a 3 foot wide trench across the site, removing all vegetation and exposing bare soil. On hilly sites, these firebreaks are built by hand using rakes and other tools by 20 person crews.
In extreme circumstances where several homes are threatened by a wildfire, the Forestry Commission can call in helicopters with large water buckets. These buckets do not put out the fire, but reduce its intensity so that the Commission crew can plow it out. The helicopter service is extremely expensive and is only done in severe fire conditions.
Wildfire Prevention is an important aspect of Forestry Commission operations. A good fire prevention program makes citizens aware of fire hazards and leads to a reduction in the number of wildfires in the state. The Forestry Commission actively works with local fire departments, schools and civic groups to present messages on safe outdoor activities and how to keep an area “fire-safe.”