“The Red Flag Warning was in effect from noon-6 p.m. Friday,” Mary Keiser, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham, said Friday afternoon. The Red Flag Warning affected numerous counties in Alabama.
Keiser said the Red Flag Warning was verified when winds and the relative humidity met the criteria needed to issue the warning.
“Saturday looks like it will be dry enough (to meet the Red Flag Warning criteria), but we are not expecting it to be windy enough,” she said. “However, people should always use proper caution and fire prevention.”
Keiser said there is no rain predicted in the next seven-day forecast.
“The high winds we received Thursday dried out the area,” said Derrick Heckman, St. Clair County forester with the Alabama Forestry Commission. “Even though we received rain last Saturday — that has been negated by the wind.”
Heckman said under a Red Flag Warning, all available firefighting units were asked to respond to fires.
“The cooler temperatures and low relative humidity along with the shortage of rainfall combined with the high winds create dangerous, catastrophic fire conditions,” he said.
Heckman said the soil sucked the moisture from the rainfall a week ago into the ground.
“The moisture is not in the leaves on the trees,” he said. “We are seeing green trees burning up, which is always a bad sign.”
Heckman said outdoor burning is strongly discouraged at this time.
“It would be much better to wait until conditions improve (to burn),” he said. “If a fire gets away from someone right now — generally they can’t put it out. It is not a good time to burn.”
Heckman said the Alabama Forestry Commission is not issuing burning permits for large acreage at this time.
“We need significant rainfall,” he said. “We need 3-6 inches of rain.”
Heckman said fall is generally the fire season in St. Clair County, as well as the rest of the state.
“We traditionally see more fires during fall and spring,” he said. “The leaf fall in fall creates available fuel for fires, and the high winds in spring also contribute.”
Heckman said individuals should immediately report any smoke or fires.
“Report any smoke or fires as soon as you see them,” he said. “Don’t let them build.”
Pell City Fire Chief Patrick Draper said the fire department is not issuing any burn permits in the city at this time.
“That is the main thing we are doing — not issuing burn permits due to the dry weather,” he said. “We are also asking people to be extremely cautious when camping or grilling due to the dry climate. We are hoping for more moisture when the weather changes.”
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