Drought conditions cause fires in portions of county

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Shown is the area near Horn Hill that caught fire.

Shown is the area near Horn Hill that caught fire.

With zero rainfall for the month of October and Covington County experiencing moderate drought conditions, local fire departments are beginning to see grass and woods fires.

Friday, the Onycha Fire Department requested mutual aid for a large woods fire in the area of Horn Hill Road and County Road 32.

Opp Fire, Babbie Fire, Sanford Fire, Libertyville Fire, Red Oak Fire and the Alabama Forestry Commission responded.

“The fire consumed 70 acres before being brought under control,” Opp Fire Chief Cory Spurlin said.

The Alabama Forestry Commission deployed three bulldozers to create a fire line to control the fire spread.

The commission also deployed their small plane for evaluation of the scene.

Local fire units set up near homes to protect those.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

While the plane was deployed, it spotted a second fire off of North Creek Road between Hwy. 55 and Camp Eleven Road.

Opp Fire, Red Oak VFD and Libertyville VFD responded to that fire.

Libertyville Fire officials say that the fire was mostly contained due to hunters, who were out-of-state firefighters, using a plow/ box blade to create a fire line.

The fire was estimated to be between 10 to 15 acres.

This fire was caused by the exhaust system on a truck that ignited sage brush.

Around 10:30 a.m., Red Oak Fire was dispatched to aid Libertyville with a woods fire. It was determined to be in a whole different area than Friday’s and was found just south of North Creek Automotive.

Alabama Forestry Commission was on standby while firefighters determined the best way to get to the fire.

Forestry sent their bulldozer. Some 23 acres was consumed.

Nearly two weeks ago, Gov. Robert Bentley declared a drought emergency for a portion of the state.

The Forestry Commission also declared a fire alert. That means that weather conditions are such that there are an abnormal number of wildfires or several unusually large wildfires in an area, or when there is an issue with severe smoke causing air quality degradation.

Andalusia Fire Chief Russell McGlamory said that things have been quiet for his department and he hopes it stays that way in regards to drought-related fires.

He did have some tips.

“Just don’t burn,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. You can be as careful and you can, but if the wind gets it, it’s out of your control. Just put your limbs, leaves and debris in a pile for later.”

McGlamory said they are also not issuing burn permits at this time.

According to the Forestry Commission, there have been a total of 910 wildfires since the beginning of October, which have destroyed more than 10,000 acres across the state.

“The drought creates a dangerous scenario where wildfire can quickly spread out of control, destroying forestland and threatening homes,” said Interim State Forester Gary Cole. “Unfortunately, there is no relief in sight. The 10-day forecast for Alabama shows almost no potential for rainfall, with above-average temperatures and lower humidity. All of these factors combined with seasonal leaf fall contribute to extremely dangerous conditions. It’s not a good outlook for our team of firefighters, who are already putting in long, difficult hours in the woods trying to suppress these blazes.”

The number of fires in October alone so far is nearly half the number of fires for the entire 2016 calendar year, Cole said.