Heat, drought raises fire danger
Leada Gore, Hartselle Enquirer
Burning restrictions in Morgan County designed to keep air quality within acceptable ranges may also help prevent forest and brush fires.
Morgan County is one of 12 counties in the state covered by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management's open burn restrictions. Other counties covered include Baldwin, DeKalb, Etowah, Jefferson, Lawrence, Madison, Mobile, Montgomery, Russell, Shelby, and Talladega.
The restrictions are in place to help prevent air pollution generated by ground-level ozone. With hot temperatures and a lack of rain, the burn can also help prevent other fires.
According to the State Forestry Commission, there are currently no fire alerts or drought emergency declarations in the state. Either of these declarations would restrict all open burning in the state.
In May, 48 counties, including Morgan County, were declared federal disaster areas because of on-going drought conditions. This enabled farmers to receive low-interest loans to cover crops lost to the drought.
Since May, dry conditions coupled with low humidity has created ripe conditions for wildfires and brush fires. While forestry officials said the conditions are consistent across the state but are especially severe in the restricted counties.
Alabama has experienced 289 wildfires since July 1. The fires have destroyed some 3,300 acres.
Forestry officials said 63,520 acres have been lost to forest fires since Oct. 1, 2005.
The hot weather is also causing havoc on utility bills.
To combat indoor heat, ADM recommends:
Adjust thermostats. According to ADM, a 1 degree change in the thermostat setting for central air conditioners can produce a 5 percent cost savings.