Picnics, barbecues, and outdoor fun are an important part of Memorial Day festivities for many Alabama families. For those who plan to celebrate with cookouts and campfires, the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) encourages everyone to use extra safety precautions with any type of outdoor burning, especially in tornado-damaged areas.
The tornados of 2011 left thousands of acres of downed and damaged trees in their wake, creating an ongoing wildfire hazard in much of North Alabama. Approximately 93 percent (12 million tons) from the estimated 204,590 acres of timber still remains on the ground. According to the Forestry Commission, this dry, woody debris can contribute to rapidly spreading fires and erratic fire behavior. Safety precautions when burning outdoors in these areas include waiting until after measurable rainfall has been received, and obtaining a burn permit from the AFC by calling (800) 242-2504. This should be done when burning any wood debris or woodland, grassland, or field greater than one-quarter acre or within 25 feet of flammable material. Other safety measures include: not burning on a windy day; clearing down to mineral soil around the area to be burned; and having enough tools, equipment, and manpower to safely control your fire. Once started, always stay with the fire until it is completely out.
In the unfortunate event that a fire does get out of control, the Forestry Commission strongly recommends that you not attempt to fight it yourself. Instead, call 911 immediately, then wait in a safe place for the arrival of the local volunteer fire department.
In the past few years, budget reductions have contributed to a decrease in the number of AFC wildland firefighting personnel, causing longer response times to wildfires. Additionally, these budget cuts have created a situation where the Commission cannot replace its aging fleet of firefighting equipment.
For more information on outdoor burning safety, contact the Alabama Forestry Commission office in your county, or visit our website at www.forestry.alabama.gov/publications.aspx.
For additional information, contact:
Coleen Vansant at 256-347-1785
Monica McCravy at 256-350-1637
or Terry Ezell at 256-350-1637