Consider the

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 19, 2006

consequences of starting a fire

The Alabama Forestry Commission has not issued a &#8220no burn” order, but individuals and businesses are strongly cautioned to avoid burning as much of the state is still suffering from drought-like conditions.

Last week's episode along Interstate 65 should serve as a reminder to all of us how quickly a fire can flare up in the dry weather. While it is unknown what actually started the small fires that consumed a good portion of an embankment along I-65, more than likely it was from a casually tossed cigarette or sparks from a towed vehicle. A few minutes later, firefighters from the Greenville Fire Department and Liberty Volunteer Fire Department were fighting a fire - that while not life or structure threatening - could have been much worse.

Wildfires like the ones in California, Texas and Florida can happen in Alabama. Consider this:

n 23 million of Alabama's 32 million acres are forestland.

n An average wildland fire year in Alabama produces 4,000 wildland fires that burn 40,000 acres.

n Debris burning and arson are major causes of wildland fire.

n Each year Alabama wildfires damage or destroy 46 homes, 114 structures, and 1,100 vehicles.

n Rapid population growth has resulted in extensive areas of wildland/urban interface across the state.

n An initial estimate found over 1,350 wildland/urban interface communities with potential wildland fire damage risk. (Alabama Forestry Commission)

With conditions the way they are, it's best to remember the slogan popularized by a forest safety icon:

&#8220Only you can help prevent forest fires.”