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Number of fires rising in Sylacauga in midst of drought


SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Wildfires have been occurring throughout the southeast United States for the last few months. On Nov. 7, Gov. Robert Bentley placed all 67 counties in Alabama on a ‘No Burn’ order. The reason, according to Bentley, is an increase in wildfires and lack of rain. Since the beginning of October, nearly 1,500 wildfires have taken off in the state and more than 15,000 acres of land have been destroyed. That is approximately 13,000 more acres destroyed by wildfires during this time period last year.

Gov. Bentley’s ‘No Burn’ order explains what to do in case of a wildfire.

Under the Drought Emergency ‘No Burn’ Order, Section 9-13-141 of the Code of Alabama states 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.

According to Gov. Bentley’s website, the ban will not be lifted until conditions improve sufficiently enough to slow down the rate at which wildfires are occurring.

Unfortunately, that means no cool fall nights around a bonfire with friends for the foreseeable future.

However, for Sylacauga residents, fire outbreaks have not severely impacted the city. But according to Sylacauga Fire Chief Jonathan Williams, the City has seen an increase in fires since the drought started in October.

Williams told the SFD has been called out to “six or seven” wildfires inside the city limits that have started in brush or wooded areas since early October.

To put it into perspective, six or seven wildfire calls is normally how many the SFD gets in an entire year. Although the number of fires is well above the norm, none have become out of control or destroyed large amounts of property. Williams said the most amount of damage caused by a single fire inside of the city limits has been 15 acres.

While the fires have not been destructive, fire officials say that does not mean you should let your guard down. Williams said people in the community need to act carefully when dealing with anything that could cause a fire, including cigarettes butts. He said there have been “quite a few” fires in the median and on the right-of-way of roads in Sylacauga. He said he cannot confirm that they were caused by cigarette butts being thrown from cars, but he believes cigarettes are most likely the cause.

“People just need to be extra cautious with anything that can cause a spark in a dry area because it will start a fire,” said Williams. He went on to say people should keep an eye on grills, especially charcoal grills, and any kind of ember to keep fires from breaking out in our area.

Jeremy Law for | © 2016, City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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