OUR OPINION: Hwy 80 accident

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 4, 2006

According to recent interviews with police and sheriff leaders, it appears that our local officials did all they could to keep our roadways safe a week ago when a horrendous accident claimed two lives.

Two drivers who traveled through the fated area prior to the wreck phoned 911 and the police department to report low visibility due to smoke and smog. The 911 dispatchers forwarded these warnings to the appropriate authority &8212; the Alabama Highway Patrol.

As of now, state officials are still combing through their reports to see what, if any, action was taken.

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Truth be told, we will never know if they could have made a difference. At best, units could have been mobilized, placed on the side of the road with their flashers on to slow traffic. This, however, is not normal protocol. Too, no one has reported any of the vehicles involved in the accident as speeding.

What is worrisome is the clearing fire taking place next to the highway. According to Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department officials, the landowner had proper permits for the fire. That said, it got out of control the day before and, according to fire department reports, the morning of the accident as well.

It seems permitted fires getting out of control is not unusual in recent weeks with the drought drying up the grasslands.

This level of danger known, it is hard for us not to think that standards for permitting fires need to be reviewed. This was not an isolated event. This particular burn site had problems not 24 hours prior to the accident. Furthermore, other sites have had similar sites.

When permitted burns are continually getting out of hand because of weather conditions, then perhaps protocol for approving permits should change.

For the state&8217;s part, we hope they are thorough in their investigation. If these warnings were brushed aside, then someone should answer for the negligence.

If these warnings were met with immediate reaction, then it is time that they release their findings and set the record straight.

Answers will not heal the hurting, but it will further the grieving process and bring about closure.