FALKVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Authorities in Morgan County are dealing with the aftermath of a fire they believe was intentionally set. The burned area is near Burney Mountain Road and was first reported Saturday night, June 30th.
Investigators put out that fire, only to be called back twice, requiring an effort of five volunteer fire departments and the forestry commission to keep the flames from consuming homes and structures.
A week after the fires, the ground is still black and scorched. The fire had spread to 97 acres. It's the largest fire firefighters have seen in the area in five years.
Chief Chris Free of the Falkville Fire Department ariel pictures of the wildfire he and about 30 other volunteer firefighters had to battle in the recent stifling heat wave.
"A gentleman in the area that lived in the area saw some teenagers in the area leaving the area in a dark-colored jeep," said Free. That was Saturday night, June 30th, when firefighters were only dealing with a small spot near Burney Mountain Road in Falkville.
Free says two days later crews were called back to the same area, put that one out, only to be paged out the next day to the same area.
"I believe they were intentionally set in those areas," said Free. "We normally don't go back to the same area of fires in different origins where they start."
But on the third call the flames made their way into the woods nearby, which presented their own danger aside from the fire.
"This was serious in that we couldn't get it out quickly," said Robert Maddox, a forester with the Alabama Forestry Commission. "It was burning through what I would loosely term junk vegetation, just low-quality hardwoods, nothing really out there, non-merchantable timber." Crews got it out late Friday night, as it was inching closer to chicken houses and homes.
The fire could have consumed homes and structures, but it was the firefighters who were in the most danger, dealing with rattlesnakes, yellow jackets, a rough terrain with cliffs and bluffs and blistering heat.
By the end of the day, Friday, the crews had put out the fires and managed to escape any injury or heat exhaustion or snakebites. The Falkville Police welcome any tips about the culprits so they can be held accountable. Chief Free reminds people that the dozens of volunteer firefighters who had to work in triple-digit weather to stop the flames, did so for free.