Dry weather makes outdoor burning too hot to handle
Mike Self, Sports Editor
The first day of spring was last week, but you wouldn't know it by observing the weather. Dry conditions and temperatures approaching record highs of late have made it seem like we just skipped spring altogether and dove right into summer.
I've always been partial to cold weather myself, so these 85-degree days in late March are more than a little discouraging. If it's already this hot now, how bad will it get in July and August? Just thinking about it makes me sweat.
This unusually warm, dry weather has certainly had its effects locally. Just this Monday the state Forestry Commission issued a fire alert for the northwestern portion of Alabama, including Franklin, Colbert, Lauderdale and Lawrence counties, restricting outdoor burning in those areas. During the alert, permits for outdoor fires will be issued only with the approval of state forester Linda S. Casey.
Marion and Winston counties had already been placed under a fire alert on March 21.
Statistics show that rainfall in the area is more than eight inches below normal for the year. In some parts of the state, the rain deficit is more than 10 inches.
That lack of rainfall combined with the unseasonably warm temperatures-Monday's high of 87 tied a record for the date set in 1908-has resulted in drought-like conditions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports the Shoals is in a moderate drought, while the Huntsville area is in a severe drought.
Such conditions make it especially difficult to control outdoor burning of any kind. A wildfire in Franklin County burned more than 500 acres this past weekend, and volunteer firefighters from Alabama and Mississippi joined foresters in battling a blaze in western Colbert County last Friday and Saturday that burned more than 160 acres and threatened several homes.
Those two incidents were just part of a statewide trend that has seen more than 1,000 woods and grass fires scorch more than 20,000 acres in Alabama since March 1.
All these statistics mean one thing-We should all strictly adhere to the restrictions placed on outdoor burning by the fire alert. Failure to do so could result in devastating property damage and perhaps even loss of life.