Lightning ignites Dixon land

Published 12:05 am Saturday, June 11, 2011

Some 123 acres were burned in Wing on Thursday. | Stephanie Nelson/Star-News

Lightning is blamed for a third fire that broke out late Thursday afternoon and burned 123 acres near Pleasant Home.

Fires began popping up throughout Covington County shortly before lunch.

Vehicles with flat tires that kept driving are credited with starting the first two fires in the county, said Mike Older, work unit forester for Covington, Coffee and Geneva counties with the Alabama Forestry Commission. One fire burned at least 50 acres in the Hopewell Community. The second fire burned less than an acre before volunteer fire fighters contained it.

Older said the third fire occurred down U.S. Hwy. 29 South, just before the Ala. Hwy. 137 junction. It was controlled at approximately 7:15 p.m.

“It was on Dixon Family Partnership land,” he said. “We had five tractors, five of our bulldozers, two private ones, two Carolina Fire Department engines, two AFC personnel and two others from the Geneva State Forest working to get it under control.”

Thursday night’s scattered rainfall did little to alleviate the county’s dryness, he said.

“Plus, with those type storms, you get the lightning, which can strike outside the area that gets the rain,” he said. “It’s so dry that, even if we do get two-to-three-tenths of an inch, it’s not enough to put (a fire) out.”

Older said when experiencing a flat tire or mechanical problems, pull over into a bare spot on the side of the road, not into tall grass.

“Sparks from a flat tire can cause a fire in an instant,” he said. “Same thing can be said for a catalytic converter. If you’re pulling a trailer, make sure nothing is dragging that can cause a spark.”

Older said the current burn ban was “not issued lightly.”

“The last time one was issued was in 2007,” he said. “It’s a very serious matter, and we don’t restrict burning because we want to. The situation is bad. Anything can start a fire now. That’s why there’s a no burn ban.”

Older said violators of that ban can be fined between $250-$500 and could face up to six months in jail.

“If you see someone who is not obeying the burn ban, call your local law enforcement,” he said. “If you’re in the city, call your police department. Those in the county should call the Covington County Sheriff’s Department. Normally, violators will get a warning on the first offense, but after that they can be arrested for a misdemeanor and fined.”

Older said if a fire breaks out, that person would be responsible for damages.

“And that includes if someone was to die while fighting the fire,” he said.