Governor Bentley expands ‘Drought Emergency’ declaration to all Alabama counties

Image: WHNT News 19

Image: WHNT News 19

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Governor Robert Bentley on Monday expanded the Drought Emergency Declaration to cover the entire state. Effective 3 p.m. Monday, November 7, 2016, all 67 counties in the state of Alabama have been placed under a ‘No Burn’ order, in which all outdoor burning is prohibited.

Earlier today Interim State Forester Gary Cole of the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) presented the formal statewide Declaration of Drought Emergency Conditions, (often referred to as a ‘No Burn’ order) to Governor Robert Bentley who approved the action.

“Although 46 counties in North Alabama were already under the No Burn Order, it was necessary to add the remaining 21 counties in the southern part of the state because of alarming wildfire activity and continued lack of rainfall,” Governor Bentley said. “The expansion of this No Burn Order is critical to keeping our citizens safe from the threat of wildfires and reducing the chance of avoidable fires.”

Since the first of October, a total of 1,421 wildfires have occurred in Alabama destroying approximately 15,409 acres of land. Last year during this same time frame, there were only 232 wildfires, burning 1,846 acres across the state.

Today, AFC wildland firefighters continue to battle a wildfire that started on Friday in Walker County which has now escalated into a 700-acre blaze and is still growing. Over the weekend, other large wildfires burned in Baldwin, Coosa, and Wilcox counties affecting several property owners.

According to Interim Forester Gary Cole, the No Burn Order is a result of the prolonged drought that most of the state is experiencing this year, as well as the increasing number of fires that have occurred recently and reduced availability of suppression resources.

“With these extremely dry conditions, any fire can quickly spread out of control. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen an increase not only in the number of wildfires that have occurred, but also the size,” Cole explained. “Several of these fires have been large, not only resulting in damage to our forests but also directly threatening residential areas. If not for the efforts of Forestry Commission firefighters and assistance from volunteer fire departments we would have lost homes.”

Under the Drought Emergency ‘No Burn’ Order, Section 9-13-141 of the Code of Alabama states that it is illegal for any 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. Specifically, the regulation prohibits any prescribed burns, any campfire or bonfire, any trash or debris fires, or any other open burning. If convicted, the penalty for violating the No Burn order is up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.00.

The ‘No Burn’ order will remain in effect until rescinded by the State Forester, at which time conditions will have changed sufficiently to reduce the occurrence and frequency of wildfires. To report persons burning in violation of this law, contact your local law enforcement. For more information on the current wildfire situation in the state, visit Alabama Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.alabama.gov.

A copy of the signed declaration is available here.