As part of its response to an underground fire that has been burning at a vegetative waste site since November, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) has created an intergovernmental, interagency working group to recommend changes to improve the ability of state and local government to respond to similar emergencies in the future. According to ADEM Director Lance LeFleur, the fire “showed gaps in the authority of both state and local governmental agencies to respond and effectively deal with it. No agency in the state had the resources or expertise to extinguish such a fire.”
The working group includes representatives of ADEM, the state legislature, and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Alabama Forestry Commission, Association of County Commissions of Alabama, and Alabama League of Municipalities. Their goal will be to identify ways to respond more effectively to similar issues in the future. They may make recommendations for changes in agency authorizations and for additional resources.
Since the fire started, state and local agencies have tried to extinguish it and built a fire break around it. In December, ADEM sought help from U.S. EPA to monitor air quality and extinguish the fire. The fire is expected to burn several more weeks before it is put out.