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‘Don’t light it’: Huntsville Fire & Rescue urges vigilance during statewide burn ban

Published on November 9, 2023

Huntsville Fire & Rescue Chief Mac McFarlen is asking residents to heed a statewide burn ban and report those who ignore it.

McFarlen said ongoing drought conditions have created a favorable atmosphere for ground fires that can quickly spread. He added that a chance of measurable rainfall this weekend won’t be enough to reverse the dry conditions.

Anybody who lights a fire also needs to understand that if it gets away from them, they face criminal and civil liability. If you see someone burning, call it in. If you see someone setting it, get a description.” – Huntsville Fire & Rescue Chief Mac McFarlen

“Dealing with wildland and grass fires takes a lot of resources and manpower to fight it, so don’t light it,” he said. “If we have a wildland fire, it’s going to get bigger by second.”

Huntsville Fire & Rescue has responded to an increasing number of wildland fire calls over the past few weeks. McFarlen said those caught burning during the ban will be cited locally.

The State can also levy fines of up to $500 and a jail sentence of up to six months.

In the past 30 days, about 760 acres have burned in Madison, Limestone, Morgan and Lawrence counties, according to Robert Maddox, a Work Unit Manager for the Alabama Forestry Commission. He said a burn ban was necessary because people didn’t heed a statewide fire alert.

Maddox said concerned homeowners can protect their homes clearing out dead leaves or other materials from the property. He also recommended cutting down dead trees and creating a defensible space of dirt, gravel or low-cut grass around the home to prevent a fire from spreading.

“Also know where your nearest hydrant is and make sure your hoses work,” he said.

What’s legal

The Forestry Commission issued the following guidance on what is prohibited during the burn ban:

  • Any campfire, bonfire or trash burn that may cause a forest, grass or woods fire
  • Trash and debris fires of woody materials, yard waste, garbage, construction debris or any other material in either an open pit or barrel
  • Any type of fireworks

Outdoor grilling is allowed if the fire is in a grill or masonry barbeque pit, including large barbeque pits used by civic organizations to prepare food. Anyone grilling should have water hoses on site to prevent loose sparks from setting a wildfire. A perimeter of at least 10 feet around the grill should be cleared of any burnable material. Side fires to generate coals for a grill must also be within a grill or masonry pit. Gas grills are also allowed.

Learn more by visiting Huntsville Fire & Rescue or the Alabama Forestry Commission.