Fifty-nine counties including Cherokee were placed under a no burn order today after the Alabama Forestry Commission declared that emergency drought conditions existed in those counties.
Gov. Bob Riley approved the action. The declaration went into effect at noon Thursday and will remain until lifted by the state forester.
Counties affected by the order include: Autauga, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Franklin, Fayette, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marshall, Marion, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Wilcox, and Winston.
Under the order, it shall be unlawful in the above-named counties for any person to set fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes, to build a campfire or bonfire, or to burn debris or other material that may cause a forest, grass or woods fire until said declaration is lifted.
State Forester Linda Casey said the no burn ban was a result of the prolonged drought that most of the state has experienced this year. The extremely dry conditions have created an atmosphere where the probability of catastrophic fire activity is high.
Over the past couple of weeks weve seen an increase in not only the number of wildfires that we have had, but several of them have been very large fires, Casey explained. Some of these fires have directly threatened homes and if not for the efforts of Commission firefighters and volunteer fire departments we would have lost homes. She went on to explain that recent temperatures consistently over the century mark, gusty winds, and sometimes relative humidity in the low 20s have not only helped fuel these fires, but the extreme weather conditions are taking a toll on the health and safety of the of the firefighters themselves.
This morning, the U.S. Drought Mitigation Center released its report that 74 percent of the state is in a D-4 level, which is the highest level on the drought scale. Most of North Alabama has been under the D-4 since early summer, and the dry conditions have expanded the exceptional category almost weekly