Drought emergency declared in Etowah County


A drought emergency has been declared in Etowah County, according to Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin.
The declaration concerning the emergency drought condition, as signed by Gov. Robert Bentley, has been in effect since Oct. 12 and will remain until rescinded by the State Forester.
Any prescribed burns, campfires, bonfires, trash or debris fires, or any other open burning is strictly forbidden. Only gas grills are allowed for barbequing; open fire grills are not allowed. If you choose to use a gas grill, have a water hose close by to prevent loose sparks from setting a wild fire.
“Citations are being issued by deputies to anyone who violates this order,” Entrekin said.  “Fines are not less than $250 and may carry a jail sentence of up to six months.”
For the first offense, where an illegal fire does not cross the property owner’s boundaries, a written warning is given. For the second offense, or when the fire crosses property lines, a citation is issued.
Additionally, individuals in violation of the no burn order will be liable for damages to other’s property and any costs related to an illegal fire.
As of Nov. 14, Etowah County has not had any measurable rain in 57 days. This is according to the Gadsden/Etowah County Emergency Management Agency.
“We need people to understand that the no burn order exists and to strictly abide by it for their safety and the safety of others,” Entrekin added.
Since the burning ban has been in effect, more than 100 fires have been reported county-wide.
“Our local fire departments have done an outstanding job responding to and extinguishing these fires,” Entrekin said.  “Their quick action has eliminated these wild fires from spreading and causing extensive damage.”
Gadsden/Etowah County EMA Director Deborah Gaither said, “No Burn means exactly what it says and there are no exceptions. Currently we have wells running dry in some of our communities and water levels are nowhere near a normal status. We currently sit in a county that is under the most extreme conditions. We are listed as a D4, which means we are under Exceptional Drought conditions. I believe that even if we see small amounts of rain, we will continue in some type of drought situation at least through January and potentially even longer.”
For more information on the current wildfire situation in the state, visit Alabama Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.alabama.gov.

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