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FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2007
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Fire alert issued for Valley area
Drought, wind, low humidity
create critical conditions here

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

The combination of gusty winds, low humidity and drought conditions has North Alabama under a fire alert Friday.

The National Weather Service in Huntsville issued a fire weather watch Thursday to remain in effect until Friday afternoon. Wind gusts from 10 to 20 mph along with humidity below 30 percent will result in critical fire weather conditions, the NWS reported.

It forecasts the humidity to rise during the day and for winds to diminish by Friday evening.

The Huntsville-Decatur area is 14 inches below normal rainfall for the year and nine inches below normal since March 1, the NWS reports.

North Alabama received rain Wednesday morning. Pryor Field in Decatur recorded 0.14 inches.

That's hardly enough to reduce the fire threat, said Coleen Vansant, public information manager for the Alabama Forestry Commission.

"It took a long time to get this dry, and it will take a lot of rain to get us out of it," she said. "One or two rains won't do it. We need good long, soaking rains, a couple of inches."

Two indications it's extremely dry are that forestry personnel are having a hard time controlling fires, she said, because the fuel (grass, brush and leaves) is so dry it's burning faster and hotter.

Fires are either blowing over fire breaks or burning along roots under the firebreaks, Vansant said.

"That tells you how dry the soil is when it can do that," she said.

Morgan County's 991 call center had five brush fire reports Tuesday. All reported smoke in the area, but no fires were located. It had no fire reports Wednesday or Thursday.

Lawrence County Emergency Management received four reports of brush fires Wednesday and Thursday, two in Hillsboro and one each in Speake and Courtland.

Limestone County's 911 call center also received four reports of brush fires Tuesday but none since then. The fires were at U.S. 72, Nelson Road, Burgreen Road and Coffman Road.

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