Falling flakes not snow, but ashes

Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 10, 2015

Despite the low temperatures on Friday, those small flakes falling from the sky in Troy weren’t snow. Instead, they likely were small pieces of ash from a local controlled burn.

Although the exact cause of the ashes could not be determined, the Alabama Forestry Commission reported four controlled burn permits were issued for the Pike County area.

AFC’s Dale County Management Specialist James Payne said the likelihood of the ashes spreading from a controlled burn is small.

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“It’s seldom that you get any ash unless it’s a large pile or something,” James Payne, the Dale County Management Specialist for the AFC said. “Even then, it would have to be a small area close to (the burn) for it to happen.”

According to Payne, most burns in the winter months are understory burns, focused on clearing pine needles and other material under pine stands. The fires burn cooler than summer months, and don’t threaten the trees.

Though permits are issued by the AFC, the prescribed burning is a right granted to landowners by the Alabama legislature, Payne said. The landowner has the right to burn the land to burn off debris from logging and understory burns. The permits allow the commission to track and plan for the burns while monitoring for wildfires. The permits are issued the day of the burn, and require the location of the burn, the type of material being burned and the size of the burn. A permit is only issued for burns that are agricultural or forestry that are greater than .25 acres, Payne said. Any burns smaller than .25 acres and more than 25 feet from a wooded area do not require a permit from the forestry commission, though local burn ordinances may still apply.