Wildfire at Talladega National Forest - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Talladega National Forest Fire 100% Contained

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CALHOUN COUNTY, Ala. -

An eastern Alabama forest fire is finally fully under control.  Ranger Bobby Kitchens with the U.S. Forest Service said firefighters have a wildfire in Talladega National Forest 100 percent contained.
 
Kitchens said 536 acres of the Dugger Mountain Wilderness burned since Sunday, November 10.  Investigators determined a campfire caused the fire.  Kitchens said it was not properly extinguished.
 
There are about 40 firefighters and support staff who continue to monitor the area.  About 20 others finished over the weekend.  Kitchens said he is pleased to report that none of the firefighters suffered any injuries.

A helicopter is making routine inspection flights, and the crew has a fire engine and a bulldozer ready if needed.  The Forest Service made preparation for as many as 566 acres to burn, but they were able to stop the fire before it reached their perimeter, about five miles south of Piedmont.

There is no damage to any private property or structures.

Rain over the weekend helped.  Kitchens said didn't get as much rain as they hoped for, so the area may dry out quickly, but the conditions Monday should work well for firefighters as they monitor the control lines.

He compared it to the prescribed burns the Forest Service routinely utilizes, where forestry officials start and control fires to clear parts of wooded areas.  Kitchens said prescribed burns in these areas are reasons there typically aren't catastrophic fires here, like those in Arizona and Colorado in recent years.
 

Original story published Thursday, November 14

More than 300 acres of the Dugger Mountain Wilderness burned between Sunday and Thursday in Talladega National Forest.  Rangers expect it to continue to burn for several days.

Incident commander Joe Smith said it appears people started the fire, although it was probably unintentional.

"We saw a ring of rocks on the ground and typically when you see a ring of rocks, it means someone's had a campfire," Smith said.

"That's our best likely conclusion as it was kind of near the center of the fire, but nothing's conclusive.  When you're in a wilderness area like this it's wide open."

Firefighters are not using heavy equipment to combat a burn this big, or even dumping water.  There are two dozers to clear control lines, but the 50-person crew is mainly use hand tools such as rakes and axes.

"We want to fight the fire where we do the least amount of damage and we want to fight it on our own terms.  We don't want to have to go up a rocky ridge or something like that.  We want to back off to a creek," ranger Bobby Kitchens said.

"It's never been our intention to put it out as quick as we can.  In other words, we didn't hit it with a sledgehammer.  We didn't order any air tankers or anything like that.  It wouldn't be cost effective and it wouldn't protect wilderness values as well."

The priorities are safety for the firefighters as well as the protection of private property.  The Forest Service said there are not any structures currently in danger.

Firefighters expect to work on control lines for several days but don't know when they'll be done.  Kitchens said it mainly depends on the weather.

"If we get any rain that's really going to help us but I'd say there will be several days before we've got our lines completely around it and burned to the lines," he said.

Their potential fire boundary allows up to 566 acres to burn.  Smith said this fire is similar to one of the forest service's regular controlled burns, which isn't entirely a bad thing.

"In this essence, fire is naturally going to happen to reduce the fuel load and to prevent catastrophic fires," Smith said.

"It improves the habitat for wildlife, it makes it easier to forage.  It opens the ground, letting sunlight in to allow plant species and fauna, those things to reproduce."

Smith and Kitchens said they hope there will be a good amount of rain Sunday to take care of remaining hot spots.

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