‘No Burn’ Order Expanded to All Alabama Counties

ALForestryCommission header


7 November 2016


MONTGOMERY – Effective 3:00 p.m. Monday, November 7, 2016, all 67 counties in the state of Alabama have been placed under a ‘No Burn’ order, in which all outdoor burning is prohibited. Earlier today Interim State Forester Gary Cole of the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) presented the formal statewide Declaration of Drought Emergency Conditions, (often referred to as a ‘No Burn’ order) to Governor Robert Bentley who approved the action.

“Although 46 counties in North Alabama were already under the No Burn Order, it was necessary to add the remaining 21 counties in the southern part of the state because of alarming wildfire activity and continued lack of rainfall,” Governor Bentley said. “The expansion of this No Burn Order is critical to keeping our citizens safe from the threat of wildfires and reducing the chance of avoidable fires.”
Since the first of October, a total of 1,421 wildfires have occurred in Alabama destroying approximately 15,409 acres of land. Last year during this same time frame, there were only 232 wildfires burning 1,846 acres across the state.

Today, AFC wildland firefighters continue to battle a wildfire that started on Friday in Walker County which has now escalated into a 700-acre blaze and is still growing. Over the weekend, other large wildfires burned in Baldwin, Coosa, and Wilcox counties affecting several property owners.

According to Cole, the No Burn Order is a result of the prolonged drought that most of the state is experiencing this year, as well as the increasing number of fires that have occurred recently and reduced availability of suppression resources. “With these extremely dry conditions, any fire can quickly spread out of control. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen an increase not only in the number of wildfires that have occurred, but also the size,” Cole explained. “Several of these fires have been large, not only resulting in damage to our forests but also directly threatening residential areas. If not for the efforts of Forestry Commission firefighters and assistance from volunteer fire departments we would have lost homes.”

Under the Drought Emergency ‘No Burn’ Order, Section 9-13-141 of the Code of Alabama states that it is illegal for any person to set fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes; to build a campfire or bonfire; or to burn trash or other material that may cause a forest, grass or woods fire. Specifically, the regulation prohibits any prescribed burns, any campfire or bonfire, any trash or debris fires, or any other open burning. If convicted, the penalty for violating the No Burn order is up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.00.

The ‘No Burn’ order will remain in effect until rescinded by the State Forester, at which time conditions will have changed sufficiently to reduce the occurrence and frequency of wildfires. To report persons burning in violation of this law, contact your local law enforcement. For more information on the current wildfire situation in the state, visit Alabama Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.alabama.gov.

Section 9-13-141 of the Code of Alabama states: “at such time as the state forestry commission has declared by regulation a drought emergency in any county or counties, it shall be unlawful in such county or counties for any person to set fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes or to build a campfire or bonfire or to burn trash or other material that may cause a forest, grass or woods fire.”
Specifically, the regulation prohibits any prescribed burns, any campfire or bonfire, any trash or debris fires, or any other open burning.

The regulations allow barbeque fires for cooking IF the fire is in a grill or masonry barbeque pit, including large barbeque pits used by civic organizations to prepare food. Anyone grilling or barbequing during the Drought Emergency should have water hoses on site to prevent any loose sparks from setting a wildfire, and a circle at least 10 feet wide around the grill should be cleared of any burnable material. Side fires to generate coals for a barbeque must also be within a grill or masonry pit. Gas grills are allowed.

Campfires or bonfires include any fire that is burned on bare ground, even if surrounded by stones or a metal fire ring. This definition includes campfires, ceremonial fires, ‘council’ fires, bonfires, ‘warming’ fires, and cooking fires that are on bare ground and not in a masonry lined ‘pit.’

Trash and debris fires include burning of woody debris, yard waste, garbage, construction debris or any other material, in either an open pit or in a barrel. At this time, people should not burn a debris pile until the Drought Emergency is lifted.

The intent of the Drought Emergency Declaration is to prevent catastrophic wildfires during drought conditions. No one should use an open flame in or around a woodland setting. At campsites, closed lanterns may be used, but no open flames such as candles or ‘tiki’ torches. Care should also be exercised in suburban areas where lawns are very dry as well.

Under Section 9-13-142, Code of Alabama, anyone found guilty of violating these regulations and improperly conducting open burning in a Drought Emergency-declared area shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $250, nor more than $500, and at the discretion of the court, that person may also be sentenced to the county jail for up to six months.

Additionally, any person burning in violation of the Drought Emergency Declaration will be liable for damages to the property of another and any costs associated with the suppression of said fire. Suppression costs would include equipment and personnel costs related to control or extinguish the wildfire.


Additional Resources:
Fire Warning Definitions: www.forestry.alabama.gov/FireWarningDesc.aspx
U.S. Drought Monitor: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?AL