MONTGOMERY— Because extremely dry conditions have created an atmosphere where the probability of catastrophic wildfire activity is high, Governor Robert Bentley today signed an Emergency Drought Condition Declaration prohibiting outdoor burning in all 67 counties in Alabama.
Since January, 1,808 wildfires have burned over 41,000 acres in Alabama, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission.
“The lack of rain and unseasonably high temperatures have left much of the state extremely dry, creating high risk potential for devastating wildfires,” said Governor Robert Bentley. “As Alabamians are recovering from the tornados that moved through the state in April, it is important that debris not be burned. We must take every precaution necessary to avoid the start of a wildfire.”
According to State Forester Linda S. Casey, “The reduced availability of suppression resources, combined with the large amount of timber that was downed by the recent tornados, extremely high temperatures, and low relative humidity increase the risk for catastrophic wildfires.”
Pursuant to the emergency rule, it is illegal for a person to set fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes, to build a campfire or bonfire, or to burn trash or other material that may cause a forest, grass, or woods fire. The fine for violating the No Burn Order is up to a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.
The order is effective immediately.
WHAT IS THE DROUGHT EMERGENCY DECLARATION?
Section 9-13-141 of the Code of Alabama states: “at such time as the state forestry commission has declared by regulation a drought emergency in any county or counties, it shall be unlawful in such county or counties for any person to set fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes or to build a campfire or bonfire or to burn trash or other material that may cause a forest, grass or woods fire.”
Under regulations issued June 7, 2011, this prohibition has been put in place in all 67 counties in Alabama. Specifically, the regulation prohibits any prescribed burns, any campfire or bonfire, any trash or debris fires or any other open burning.
DO THE REGULATIONS COVER BARBEQUES?
The regulations allow barbeque fires for cooking IF the fire is in a grill or masonry barbeque pit, including large barbeque pits used by civic organizations to prepare food. Anyone grilling or barbequing during the Drought Emergency should have water hoses on site to prevent any loose sparks from setting a wildfire, a circle at least 10 feet wide around the grill should be cleared of any burnable material. Side fires to generate coals for a barbeque must also be within a grill or masonry pit. Gas grills are allowed.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE “CAMPFIRE OR BONFIRE” PROHIBITION?
Campfires or bonfires include any fire that is burned on bare-ground, even if surrounded by stones or in open dirt pits. This includes campfires, ceremonial fires, “council” fires, bonfires, “warming” fires, and cooking fires that are on bare-ground and not in a masonry lined “pit”.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE “TRASH OR DEBRIS FIRE” PROHIBITION?
Trash and debris fires include burning of woody debris, yard waste, garbage, construction debris or any other material, in either an open pit or in a barrel. At this point in time, people should not burn a debris pile until the Drought Emergency is lifted. Tornado debris can be disposed of at one of the ADEM or EMA approved sites. Check with your local authorities for the nearest location.
WHAT OTHER THINGS ARE INCLUDED IN THE DROUGHT EMERGENCY?
The intent of the Drought Emergency Declaration is to prevent catastrophic wildfires during drought conditions. No one should have open flames in a woodland setting. At campsites, only closed lanterns may be used, not open flames like candles and “TIKI Torches.” Care should also be taken in suburban areas where lawns are also very dry.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATING THESE REGULATIONS?
Under Section 9-13-142, Code of Alabama, anyone found guilty of violating these regulations and improperly doing open burning in a Drought Emergency declared area shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $250.00 nor more than $500.00 and, at the discretion of the court, that person may also be sentenced to the county jail for up to six months.
In addition, any person burning in violation of the Drought Emergency Declaration, will be liable for damages to the property of another and any costs associated with the suppression of said fire. Suppression costs would include equipment and personnel costs related to control or extinguish the wildfire.
For more information or to report persons burning in violation of this law, contact the Alabama Forestry Commission
at or visit www.forestry.alabama.gov