Wildfire continues to burn in Calhoun County wilderness
by Brian Anderson
Nov 13, 2013 | 3808 views |  0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Burns Trailhead along Rabbittown Road.  A wildfire in the Talladega National Forest has scorched the area.  Photo by Bill Wilson.
Burns Trailhead along Rabbittown Road. A wildfire in the Talladega National Forest has scorched the area. Photo by Bill Wilson.
RABBITTOWN – From the hill behind his home, Jeff Parris said that at night, he can see the flames from Red Mountain jump 20 feet above the tree line.

Since Sunday the Rabbittown resident, who lives on a stretch of road that cuts through the Talladega National Forest, has watched the smoke and ash from wildfires choke out the views of the mountain. As of this afternoon, 225 acres of land in the Dugger Mountain Wilderness in Calhoun County had burned, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

“I’ve never seen a fire in the national forest,” Parris said. “They don’t even do burns up there.”

Bobby Kitchens, a public information officer with the U.S. Forest Service, said 25 firefighters were working to contain the fire this afternoon, and he expected another 25 to arrive before tonight. Because much of the Southeast is going through a dry period, Kitchens said, the Forest Service called in the nearest available firefighters, from New Mexico, to assist in containing the flames.

Because the land is designated as a wildlife area within the National Forest, roads are not allowed to be built there. Kitchens, who spoke by phone from the Shoal Creek District Ranger Office in Cleburne County, said the lack of roads has made getting firefighters to the flames difficult, with walking being the best option.

“We have a small helicopter, but that’s mostly for scouting purposes,” Kitchens said. “We can’t really transport people, so the best way to get there is just to walk two or three miles.”

Although smoke filled the air along Rabbittown Road Wednesday, Kitchens said there was no threat to residents nearby, and forestry officials had the fire contained in the wilderness area and away from roads.

“Unless they’re allergic to smoke, they should be fine,” Kitchens said. “But no one’s property has been threatened.”

The Forest Service has closed off 5 miles of the Pinhoti Trail through the wilderness area, but Kitchens said the trail is still open north and south of the area.

Kitchens said he didn’t know when the fire would be extinguished, but said the weather should help firefighters subdue the flames in the next couple days. Winds on Tuesday and Wednesday had spread the fire, but Kitchens said the forecast calls for considerably less wind for the rest of the week.

“Of course once it’s contained we won’t just walk away,” Kitchens said. “We still have to mop up, so it’s going to be several days.”

Kitchens said the cause of the fire is under investigation, but he suspects it was man-made.

“That’s what we want people to know, is that it’s very dry out there,” Kitchens said. “People need to be careful about fire.”

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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