Governor Robert Bentley on Friday activated an aviation unit of the Alabama National Guard to assist the Alabama Forestry Commission in battling an ongoing wildfire in Dekalb County.
The National Guard unit, that includes three soldiers and one UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, is tasked with aerial water delivery in support of the AFC's fire suppression efforts. The unit was activated this morning and has already arrived on the scene.
"It is essential that we use the resources we have available to assist the Alabama Forestry Commission and local firefighters to ensure that minimal damage is done by wildfires during this drought emergency," Governor Bentley said. "I have activated the National Guard to assist the AFC in fighting the fire in Dekalb County in order to relieve some of the strain on the agency as they fight hundreds of fires across the state. The men and women of the Alabama Forestry Commission are to be commended for their hard work and dedication during this dire situation. I also want to reiterate, if you see any person setting a wildfire please notify local law enforcement."
The fire on Lookout Mountain near Mentone, which started on November 9th, currently spans 150 acres and is 50 percent contained. AFC has wildland firefighters working the wildfire, which is still burning and endangering a number of homes.
"Due to the tough terrain, our tactic will be to utilize aerial resources in establishing a wet line through water drops provided by ALEA and the Alabama National Guard," said Terry Ezzell, North Regional Forester with the Alabama Forestry Commission. "Our goal is to secure the southern end of the wildfire which poses the most immediate threat to homes and property. It is imperative to secure this southern line today while we have favorable winds because tomorrow the winds are expected to shift from the north with a front coming in. We do have several AFC ground crews on scene, along with volunteer fire departments, in the event the wildfire jumps the containment lines."
Alabama is currently offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person who is responsible for setting wildfires. To report persons burning in violation of this law, contact your local law enforcement. For more information on the current wildfire situation in the state, visit Alabama Forestry Commission's website at www.forestry.alabama.gov.