GARDENDALE, Ala. (WIAT) – With all the rain we’ve been having lately–especially with the storms that came through on Wednesday, you might assume that Alabama is finally clear when it comes to the drought. However, for most of the state, that’s not the case. Even after we were pelted with hail and rain, firefighters in several counties had to battle nine wildfires yesterday.
“Some of the rangers reported they were having trouble trying to keep their tractors from sinking in the mud and getting stuck,” explained Coleen Vansant, spokesperson for the Alabama Forestry Commission, “yet they were fighting a wildfire that was burning on the ridges.”
Vansant said there were crews working in Dallas, Fayette, Walker, Marion, Cullman, Winston, and Lamar counties on Wednesday. “It was a scenario were you had standing water, and then you had a wildfire on the ridges,” she said.
According to Vansant, that should show people that conditions are still extremely dry in parts of Alabama. “With the wind the way it’s been the past few days, even if you get rain it doesn’t take long for any moisture on the fuel to dry up,” she said.
The forestry commission wants people to keep that in mind before they burn anything–and at the very least, check the ‘fire forecast’ that can be found on the National Weather Service page.
This year, compared to last year, crews have had to battle over 200 more wildfires. Vansant said the fires that we’ve seen since January 1st also chewed up 13,000 acres compared to 9,000 acres during the same time period last year. When asked why we are seeing such a significant difference, Vansant points to the drought and the spring fire season. She also said that forestry commission firefighters are spread thin.
“Budget restrictions over the past few years have gotten us down to some of the lowest firefighter levels we’ve ever had,” explained Vansant. “When you don’t have the personnel to send immediately and you have a backlog of fires–then those fires are going to get bigger or response time is going to be longer.”