Forestry Commission poised to declare fire alert

Posted by Samuel King - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Forestry Commission is poised to declare a statewide fire alert.  But more state budget cuts will likely make containing those fires more difficult.

There were as many as 21 active brush fires in Alabama during the day Thursday. Commission officials as the state moves into the spring fire season, there won't be adequate resources to fight fires.

"We cannot provide adequate fire protection as it gets drier and particularly if fires begin to cluster in a particular geographic area, it can overwhelm our personnel," said Linda Casey, the State Forester.

Proration forced the commission to cut 70 positions during Fiscal Year 2010.  The commission has been told to brace for even deeper cuts the next two years.  That could mean even more jobs and fewer firefighters on the front lines.

"We're having trouble right now providing fire protection, it would almost be impossible in fiscal year '12," Casey said.

Volunteer fire departments say any more cuts at the state level could have a major impact on how they respond to brush and forest fires.

"In the current setup, we are there to assist them," said John Harris, assistant chief of the Snowdoun Volunteer Fire Department.   "If it goes the way that it's looking like with a 50 percent man cut, then basically they're going to end up assisting us."

And that means it could take longer for fires to be extinguished.

"The fires are going to end up larger, cost more in the damage to their property, or adjacent property," Harris said.  "It's just going to be a slower event than what we do now, when forestry comes and works on these things with us."

So fire agencies are stressing prevention to minimize the number of wildfires this year.

To see where wildfires are ongoing in the state, click here.

Copyright 2011 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.