In height of wildfire season, Alabamians urged to use fire safety

Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 5:28 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Wildfire season usually peaks between June and August. Halfway through July, Alabama has already seen more acreage burned than all of last year.

“This year, we’ve had about 30,000 acres burned and wildfires already. So that is exceeding the yearly total last year by 8000 acres already,” Heather Alexander, Associate professor of forest and fire ecology at Auburn University explained about 22,000 acres burned and about 1000 wildfires across the state last year. “A lot of those burned in February and March, when conditions were really dry and windy and warm, and the relative humidity was low, which helps these fires spread.”

Nearly 3 million people living in Alabama are living in areas at elevated risk of wildfire. That’s about 59% of the state’s population at a heightened risk for wildfire damage.

“Unintentional damage to property, homes and land,” Alexander described the threat wildfires pose. “And then we worry a lot about smoke intrusion and especially into vulnerable areas like schools or hospitals or nursing homes. And then there’s also quite a bit of risk to the firefighters who actually have to go out and battle these blazes and are putting themselves in danger to be out there fighting these fires.”

That’s why it’s important, especially this time of year, to be fire aware when dealing with any kind of flame.

“It’s a legal mandate, if you’re burning over a quarter of an acre, or you’re within 25 feet of a flammable area, you should get a burn permit through the Alabama Forestry Commission because they know if the conditions are acceptable to be intentionally burning, and they won’t give you a permanent if they’re not,” said Alexander. “And then make sure that if you’re going to be burning you’re grasslands or you’ve got a brush pile, or you’ve got a forest you want to to use a prescribed fire on that you have enough manpower to conduct that fire and you have the proper equipment, and that you’ve put in fuel-free or fuel moist fire breaks around that burn area. So you want to make sure that that fire is manageable, and it doesn’t spread in areas you don’t want it to be.

“If you have a campfire, a bonfire, also make sure that you put in nonflammable breaks around it. And then stay with it until it’s out, you know because you don’t want the wind picking up and a spark to fly and it to move into an area that could ignite. "

The National Fire Protection Association has a list of resources to help home and land owners understand how to reduce their risks for wildfire damage here.

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