MILTON — Officials with the Florida Forest Service and Alabama Forestry Commission are coming together to warn residents of both states of increasing danger of wildfires because of a continued lack of rainfall. It has been more than a month since most of Alabama and Northwest Florida have seen significant rainfall, and there is little to no relief in sight.
“With the current weather patterns that we are experiencing, any outdoor burning has the potential for escaping and developing into a major wildfire, which could endanger lives and destroy property,” said Benji Elmore, Southwest Regional Forester with the Alabama Forestry Commission. “Prolonged drought, abnormally high temperatures, lower humidity and higher winds are all ingredients for a catastrophic fire event. Every wildfire that is prevented under these conditions could be someone’s life or home that is saved.”
Wildland firefighters in both states are on heightened alert and resources from other areas of the states have been prepositioned to help deal with the elevated fire activity in some areas and increased potential in others. The two agencies — both responsible for wildfire suppression in their respective states — also are working together in areas along their roughly 200-mile border and elsewhere as needed to help each other fight fires as they occur.
“Our resources are ready to respond throughout the Florida Panhandle as well as nearby areas of Alabama if requested,” said Ken Weber, Florida Forest Service Deputy Chief of Field Operations for Region 1, which covers the area from the western Florida-Alabama line along the Perdido River east to the Aucilla River and Jefferson County line. “The partnership between Florida and Alabama is strong, and we’ve always been available to help each other when needed."
Alabama currently is under a statewide Fire Alert, which allows the Forestry Commission to restrict the issuing of burn permits. The area most impacted by drought conditions in Florida is split between the Blackwater Forestry Center (serving Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties) and the Chipola Forestry Center (serving Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Walton and Washington counties).
To report a wildfire in Alabama, call 800-3925679. For more information on the current wildfire situation in the state or any other forestry-related issues, contact the local AFC office or visit the agency at www.forestry.alabama.gov/Pages/Fire/Totals.aspx.
To report a wildfire in Florida, call 850-957-5701 or 850-373-1801. The Florida Forest Service manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests.