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Brush fire destroys 30 acres

Near drought conditions are being cited as the reason behind an estimated 30-acre brush fire on Ridge Road Sunday.

Early this month, Governor Robert Bentley placed 46 counties in northern Alabama under a “No Burn Order” because of the lack of rainfall. The state’s remaining counties – including Escambia – were placed on fire alert.

“We need rain desperately,” said State Forester Gary Cole. “Over the past couple of weeks we’ve seen an increase, not only in the number of wildfires, but also in the size of these fires. Several of them have been very large wildfires.

“With this extremely dry weather, conditions are such that any fire can quickly spread out of control, not only resulting in damage to our forests but also threatening and destroying homes,” Cole said. “These burning restrictions are a necessary result of the ongoing lack of precipitation, the recent increased number of fires, high probability of fuel ignition, as well as the reduced availability of firefighting manpower and suppression resources across the state.”

Just after 3 p.m. Sunday, a passerby noticed large plumes of smoke coming from the wooded area near Ridge Road Volunteer Fire Department. It is unknown how the fire began on the T.R. Miller Mill property. Thankfully, no homes were damaged in the fire, which was battled by Ridge Road volunteers and state forestry units.

Brewton Fire Chief Jeffery Salter Monday urged residents to remember the city’s no burn ordinance, which prohibits burns inside the city limits without a permit.

“The current drought condition in our county is posing a serious threat for wildfires,” Salter said. “The current fire alert could be upgraded to a no burn ban if significant rain doesn’t occur within the next few weeks.”

Salter said the department has responded to two brush fires within the last week – one within the city limits and another to assist Ridge Road Volunteer and East Brewton fire departments.

“These fires moved extremely fast, and a small fire can turn into a very large fire within a few minutes,” he said. “I will be suspending any issuance of permits to burn outside vegetation within the city until it can be deemed safe to do so.”

Residents observing others violating the ordinance are asked to report the activity by calling 867-3211 or 867-7165.

In East Brewton, Fire Chief Joey Shell said, “Right now, we’re encouraging no burning at all in East Brewton because it’s so dry.”

“We’d also like to ask people to use common sense. Don’t do it on a windy day if you feel you must burn. We do like for people to notify us if they’re going to burn a sizeable amount of leaves. Remember, it’s illegal to burn household garbage.”

“For future reference, once the bans are lifted, if you are burning any area over a quarter of an acre, it requires a state burn permit,” Shell said.

To notify the department or to ask any questions, call 867-4859.