By Takela Underwood, USFS
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 | 12:10 PM
The USDA Forest Service announced that recent rain and increased moisture have greatly improved conditions opening eight trails to visitors and containing the “Big Tree” wildfire located in the Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest to 75 percent.
According to Dave Casey, district ranger for the Bankhead National Forest, some resources have been released from the “Big Tree” wildfire with one hotshot fire crew from Virginia remaining to continue to monitor the fire line. Rain was much needed to slow the progress of the wildfire. “We really appreciate everyone coming together to support our firefighters while they protected the community from the threat of wildfires,” said Casey. “Firefighters are faced with dangerous tasks and their dedication is commended.” The incident has been turned over to Bankhead District employees to maintain.
A fire ban closure will remain in effect for the Sipsey Wilderness Area until November 30. Four trails in the Sipsey Wilderness - 204 Bee Branch Trail, 208 Northwest Road Horse Trail, 209 Sipsey River Trail and 224 Bunyan Hill Horse Trail continue to remain closed. Fall is a popular time of the year for outdoor enthusiasts. “We are encouraging the public to visit other trails throughout the Bankhead National Forest that are outside of the Sipsey Wilderness”, said Casey. Visitors can enjoy the Owl Creek Non-motorized Trail System that has three trail loops (25 miles) providing scenic and quiet hikes or horse-back riding. For a campfire experience, other areas throughout the Bankhead National Forest are open (except the Sipsey Wilderness). Anywhere campfires are used, extra caution is needed.
Forest visitors can help prevent wildfires by controlling campfires (outside the Sipsey Wilderness) that are built in designated fire rings by making sure they are out and crushing cigarettes in ashtrays. Check spark arrestors on off-road vehicles and other equipment with internal-combustion engines to ensure they are in working order. Drivers in the forest should stay on designated roads and never park on dry brush or grass to avoid risk of starting a fire. “Know Before You Go” and check fire restrictions and alerts by visiting us online at www.fs.usda.gov/alabama.