Residents there live under constant threat of hard-to-control forest fires -- the kind of fires that burn thousands of acres, force widespread evacuations and destroy homes, or worse.
Earlier this year in California, an illegal fire set by a hunter near Yosemite National Park touched off a forest fire that burned more than 400 square miles and did more than $70 million in damages. This summer in Arizona, 19 firemen died fighting a forest fire in Arizona that shifted toward them due to high winds. In Colorado, a state-government task force is seeking answers after two years of deadly fire seasons; three fires in the Rio Grande Valley burned more than 100,000 acres late this summer.
In that regard, Alabama is fortunate. We suffer regularly from tornadoes and occasionally from hurricanes. Yet, fire concerns here in northeast Alabama are real, given the size of the Talladega National Forest and the South’s recent propensity for droughts. Wildfires, regardless of where you live, are nothing to make light of.
The U.S. Forest Service says the Talladega National Forest fire, whose cause hasn’t been determined, has already burned 319 acres and may burn more than 500 before it is brought under control. That may be small in comparison to the monster blazes seen out West, but it still is a sizeable chunk of one of Alabama’s outdoor treasures.
If anything, the Talladega National Forest wildfire has given us a renewed interest in fire prevention and appreciation for those who fight them up close. Their work is invaluable in protection of our forestland and those who live near it.