HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Governor Ivey’s No Burn Order went into effect at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday. The order prohibits all outdoor burning, including the use of fire pits and campfires.
Alabama Forestry Commission, Work Unit Manager, Robert Maddox joked that his office had to “blow the dust off” the burn ban sign. However, he said given the dry conditions and ample fuels, it was needed.
“We’re asking the public to please work with us,” Maddox said. “Don’t burn, don’t light anything.”
Huntsville Fire & Rescue (HFR) Chief Mac McFarlen said when wildfires strike, HFR works with the Alabama Forestry Commission and other agencies to put them out.
“We’ve had a lot of fires statewide, we’ve had a lot of fires in the Huntsville area,” Chief McFarlen said. “Everything you see out there, if you stop anywhere on the road and you just look around, just about everything you see is dry.”
“It’s dry and it’s ready to burn,” McFarlen said. “We’re sitting on just a powder keg of a volatile situation where things can burn.”
According to the Alabama Forestry Commission, about 760 acres have burned in Madison, Limestone, Morgan, and Lawrence counties in the past 30 days.
Both agencies agree that even with rain in the forecast for Thursday night and Friday morning, it won’t be enough to lower the fire danger. The AFC says the soil is dry multiple inches deep, and we need to overcome extreme drought before fire conditions get better.
Chief McFarlen said he is worried that the small amount of rain that falls in Huntsville over the next few days will give people a false sense of security. “A lot of people who have something they want to burn, they thought ‘ok, now the grounds wet, it’s rained’, they are not understanding that an hour after, the sun pops back out and everything is just as dry as it was.”
Violating the burn ban can come with serious consequences. People can be fined up to $500 or face six months in jail, in addition to fire suppression costs.
Chief McFarlen urges anyone who sees illegal burning or a fire, to call it in. “That’s the time to be a tattle tale,” he said. “Get on the phone, call 911, and let us know. If we’ve got a wildland fire, grass, leaves, it’s getting bigger by the moment. We need to respond quickly.”
He said people should take note of the location, and be able to give a description of anyone they saw light the fire.
Chief McFarlen said he doesn’t believe Alabama is set up for the scale of wildfire devastation that is typically seen on the west coast or in Hawaii. However, the Forestry Commission says it is always good to be prepared.
“Have an evacuation route, know where to go and at least two ways out of your neighborhood,” Maddox said.
He said homeowners should create a defensible space around their home, by removing any dead trees and leaves and cleaning their gutters.