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Fire alert placed on area

Remember February? Remember Feb. 23-26 when the skies dumped so much water into the river that state weather officials issued a flash-flood warning?

So much for the February floods. Less than three weeks later, Greene, Hale, Sumter, Perry and Marengo counties have been included in a 55-county fire alert because of wretchedly dry conditions.

Demopolis Assistant Fire Chief Joey Morgan said the lack of rain is not the only contributor to the fire alert, which is being enforced in West Alabama cities like Demopolis.

“It’s very dry, but it’s also very windy,” Morgan said. “The wind has really made it tough.”

In a warning issued by the Alabama Forestry Commission, predicted high winds over the next few days raise enough concern to enact the fire alert.

From March 19-21, at least 197 fire burned 3,539 acres of land, and for the month of March, 1,028 fires have burned more than 15,000.

“More fires have burned since March 1 than” the last five months, according to a release from the AFC.

“Currently, the Alabama Forestry Commission is operating with a 10-percent decrease in personnel due to state general fund budget cuts,” the statement said. “With this decrease in manpower, some counties are not fully staffed with firefighting personnel. This makes it difficult to give firefighters much needed rest or to move units from one area to another to provide adequate fire protection.”

According to Morgan, the city of Demopolis has scaled back on issuing burn permits during the fire alert.

On Monday, after the alert had gone into place, Morgan said the fire department received a call about one person burning debris is a 55-gallon container.

“We’re not allowing that right now, and we had to make the guy put the fire out,” Morgan said. “But even if people are using the 55-gallon drums to burn, you still have to get a permit.”

For those who live outside of incorporated cities, Morgan said fire permits must be obtained from the Alabama Forestry Commission.

The forecast does not look much better in terms of rain for at least the next week. According to weather.com, there is not a strong chance of rain until Thursday, April 1. And as of now, it’s only a 40 percent chance of showers.