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Three fires erupt in county Wednesday

By By Janet Little Cooper
A brush fire on Smith Dairy Road north of Atmore was one of three fires requiring assistance from the Alabama Forestry Commission in Escambia County Wednesday.
The Atmore Fire and Rescue Department responded to the blaze Wednesday afternoon that appeared to have been sparked by a trash fire.
"Our trucks could not get to the fire because the field was full of underbrush and cut down timber," chief Gerry McGhee said. "We called in the forestry department and we stayed on hand to protect the structures located across the road from the field."
McGhee and three of his firemen worked to fight the blaze back as the winds picked up causing the flames to charge closer to the roadway.
"The wind was a concern of course," McGhee said. "Had it been burning in the other direction, we would have had to close the highway due to heavy smoke and low visibility. The hot embers being carried by the winds are another concern with it being as dry as it is."
McGhee's call for help from the forestry commission had to wait due to two other fires occurring at the same time within the county.
While the five to six acres of brush continued to burn in Atmore, forestry crews were fighting a blaze on Sardis Church Road in Wawbeek and one on Hwy. 113 north of Flomaton.
The fire in Wawbeek consumed an estimated 130 acres including an old wooden house and barn according to Escambia County manager of the Alabama Forestry Commission Randy Cannon.
"The fire began late Tuesday afternoon," Cannon said. "We worked it until midnight and thought we had it contained. Wednesday afternoon it was running again. We fought it until late Wednesday night as well. To make sure that we had a good break line, we went in and burned another line next to the break line. Right now that is our best method with it being as dry as it is."
The Wawbeek fire is of a suspicious nature according to Cannon and continues to be under investigation, while the others are believed to be the result of a trash fires.
"We had to call in help from outside counties," Cannon said. "I was finally able to let one of my men break away around 4 p.m. to get over to Atmore."
McGhee said that the forestry department arrived around 5 p.m. and plowed a trench around the field and back burned it so it would burn the other way.
McGhee and his department stayed on hand to ensure the protection of the nearby structures.
"I really appreciate the public in the city abiding by our no-burn ban," McGhee said Wednesday. "Until we have a large amount of rain, no one needs to burn anything right now, it just takes a little bit to get it started, just like we've seen today."
The city of Atmore, Flomaton and Brewton all remain under a no burn ban, while the county still has not issued one.
Cannon agrees that now is not the time to be burning anything no matter how unsightly it may be.
"I would discourage any outdoor burning of limbs, leaves, trash or whatever," Cannon said. "No matter how unsightly it is do not burn it."
Cannon dealt with a woods fire July 4 that began as a result of someone dumping their used charcoal on the ground.
"The ground is just that dry," Cannon said. "Today, a week ago, we got seven inches of rain where I live in the eastern side of the county. Five miles on either side of me didn't get any rain. That seven inches was the most rain we had gotten here in a 100 days. Two days later, you couldn't mow the lawn without a dust storm."
The Alabama Forestry Department responded to 48 fires last year, this year so far they have responded to approximately 220.
"We are the second highest county in the state for brush fires," Cannon said. "Mobile County is the only other county in the state, which came in first."
Cannon said that out of 20 fires in the month of June, a third of those were the result of lightening strikes.
According to Accuweather.com, there is a slight chance of scattered rain showers throughout the week.