Tourism Tuesdays Oct. 8, 2019

ATD’s 2019 Fall tourism workshop scheduled for Oct. 16

A Southern getaway with an unrivaled soundtrack

ShoalsFest promoters see festival as a success

Get a glimpse of the unusual at Alabama’s museums

Golf Magazine puts Ross Bridge on 100 Best Resorts list

Local barbecue teams featured on Destination America TV show

Shelby Co. Chamber honors tourism and recreation all-stars

Free walking tours explore Huntsville’s rich history

USDA Forest Service urges precaution as fire activity in Alabama increases

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


ATD’s 2019 Fall tourism workshop scheduled for Oct. 16
The Alabama Tourism Department will host its semi-annual Tourism Workshop, Wed., Oct 16. The workshop will held be in Montgomery at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Ave., from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. in room 342. The workshop is designed for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone else interested in enhancing tourism in their area. Many of ATD’s staff members will attend this workshop and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. There is no registration fee.

For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at rosemary.judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov 

A Southern getaway with an unrivaled soundtrack
From the article by Matthew Kronsberg on

In December of 1969, four days before they’d take the stage at California’s Altamont Raceway, the Rolling Stones traveled to the small northwest Alabama textile town of Florence and checked into a Holiday Inn. From there, they shuttled back and forth across the Tennessee River to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, where over the course of three nights, they cut the songs “You’ve Got to Move,” “Brown Sugar,” and “Wild Horses,” which Keith Richards wrote while sequestered in the studio’s tiny bathroom. In his autobiography, “Life,” Mr. Richards reminisced that the studio “was the crème de la crème, except it was just a shack in the middle of nowhere.”

Keith had a point. This corner of Alabama could feel like the middle of nowhere. Florence, surrounded by cotton fields, was an hour’s drive from the nearest interstate. Sheffield, where the studio was, had a Ford plant that cast aluminum auto parts. Adjacent to Sheffield was the studio’s namesake, Muscle Shoals, home of the powerhouse for the massive Wilson Dam. Then there was Tuscumbia, famous as the birthplace of Helen Keller. Collectively, the group of towns is known as the Shoals.

‘Record labels knew the musicians could work without temptation.’
What made the studio the crème de la crème was the reputation of the men who opened it—a group of studio musicians that became known as the Swampers. As the mid-60s house band at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, they played on everything from Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You,)” to Etta James’s “Tell Mama” to Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1,000 Dances.” When the musicians left FAME in 1969 to open Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in a former casket showroom in Sheffield, artists followed. Beyond the local musicians’ skill, record labels favored the Shoals because they knew the artists they sent there could work without distraction, temptation or notice. Even into the ’80s, these were dry towns in dry counties; you had to drive up to Tennessee (or know a bootlegger) to buy booze. “When people came here to record with us, all they could do at night was go home to the hotel, because there was nothing else to do,” remembers David Hood, the Swampers’s bassist.

This year, as the still-active studio celebrates its 50th Anniversary, it looks much as it did when its stone facade was immortalized on the cover of the first album recorded there, Cher’s “3614 Jackson Highway.” A legend that still manages to be obscure, the studio draws about 12,000 visitors a year, with about a third hailing from overseas, said Judy Hood, David’s wife, who leads private “Swampette” tours of both Muscle Shoals Sound and FAME studios.

But these days, visitors are coming to a region full of distractions and temptations. In the last two years, a pair of boutique hotels have opened in downtown Florence, rock-star-ready accommodations that are stumbling distance from raucous bars like the Wildwood Tavern, where you’ll find students from the University of North Alabama mixing it up over pinball with musicians passing through town to cut records. Down the block, more wholesome locals and visitors perch themselves atop the swivel stools at the counter of Trowbridge’s, a 101-year-old ice cream parlor.

The Shoal’s current vibrancy comes not just from music but also from the fashion industry. “This was known as the T-shirt capital of the world from 1974 up until Nafta,” said designer Natalie Chanin. Born and raised in Florence, Ms. Chanin worked in fashion in New York and Europe before returning 20 years ago to found her label Alabama Chanin, whose hand-stitched and painted garments can sell for thousands of dollars. The label draws visitors to its production facility in an industrial park on the edge of town for single and multiday sewing and craft workshops, and to its store and cafe which hosts occasional dinners prepared by nationally known chefs. At one of those dinners recently, she noted that the thread joining music and textiles in Florence is not a new one. “From this building there were 5,500 dozen T-shirts made a week, enough to fill an 18-wheeler,” said Ms. Chanin. On Friday afternoons the drivers would truck the shirts to San Francisco to be turned into concert T-shirts for the artists “who were recording on the other side of the river.”

That music and fashion connection is even more explicit in the doings of designer Billy Reid, who has made his home and company headquarters in Florence since 2001. Said Mr. Reid, “You could have shot a cannon down Court Street on a Saturday night and not hit anyone.” But these days? “You can’t find a parking spot on a Tuesday.”

Mr. Reid’s annual “Shindig”—a weekend of fashion shows, food, music and sandlot baseball—deserves much of the credit for putting the region on the map for crowds beyond music nostalgists. This year, the 11th iteration of Shindig featured musician Jack White, who came to town for a double header—a baseball game where his team faced off against Mr. Reid’s, and a gig at the Shoals Theater. Meanwhile, Jason Isbell, who grew up in the area, performs this week at a festival of his own that he’s christened ShoalsFest. It will also feature performers like Mavis Staples, who with the Staples Singers recorded what might be the songs most emblematic of the Muscle Shoals sound, “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There.”

Even without the prospect of a festival, the area warrants a trip. I toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum Home, in Florence, and followed it up with another architectural standout, the Rattlesnake Saloon, about 30 minutes outside of town. The saloon is tucked underneath a high rock overhang, and accessed on foot or via a “saloon taxi.” The taxi (a pickup truck with benches in the back) ferries patrons from the parking lot down to the saloon via a steep, unpaved path in a minute-long, white-knuckle ride.

Earlier, I visited the Coon Dog Cemetery, set back in the woods off a winding road, unprepared for how moving it turned out to be. A few locals explained the significance of the coins left on the markers. A penny means you visited. A nickel means you hunted with the deceased canine. And a quarter means you were with them when they died.

After that, I needed a good old bourbon-and-cry. Fortunately, back in Florence, I found Odette, a warmly lit restaurant with a sympathetic bar manager who poured me an Old Weller Antique. (What better drink for toasting all those good dogs?) The restaurant felt like the embodiment of the Shoals today: fiercely tied to the region but receptive to influences from the wider world, manifested in dishes like Brussels sprouts braised with Conecuh sausage, and braised pork cheeks with preserved lemon risotto. At the bar, I met George Pillow Jr., whose daughter Celeste owns the restaurant, and learned that his company Senators Coaches provides the Rolling Stones with their tour busses—a reminder of how deeply music connects “the middle of nowhere” to everywhere.

Soul Mates—Just a few of the artists who recorded in the Shoals, as remembered by bassist David Hood
Start a cross-country drive with a playlist of songs recorded in and around Muscle Shoals, and you’ll run out of continent before you run out of music. David Hood, one of the Swampers, was a witness to, or participant in, well over a thousand miles worth of those songs, from Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” and the Staple Singers’s “I’ll Take You There” to Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome.” Here are his memories of a few favorite sessions:

Boz Scaggs ‘I’m Easy’ “He told us he was a writer for Rolling Stone, so we let him hang around and watch us. Later we found out that he was just checking us out to see if he wanted to record with us.”

Bob Seger ‘Mainstreet’ “He would come here with all these songs he’d written, and we’d cut them almost like demos. Then he’d go back to Detroit and play them to the Silver Bullet Band and they would try to beat what we did, and the ones [of ours] they couldn’t beat went on the record. They couldn’t beat ‘Mainstreet.’”

Willie Nelson ‘Bloody Mary Morning’ “He drove himself over here from Texas in his old, beat-up Mercedes. Carried his guitar in, threw it on the floor and just said, “OK, let’s start.” He was a hit songwriter at that time but not yet a hit artist.”

Rolling Stones ‘Wild Horses’ “We were told not to tell anybody they were coming, because they didn’t have their work permits to come and record. People would drive by, and if we were out on the back porch, they’d honk and wave, but they wouldn’t stop.”

The Lowdown—The music, artistry and slaw dogs of the Shoals, Alabama
Getting There: Unless you take one of Boutique Air’s flights from Atlanta to Northwest Alabama Regional Airport, the closest you’re likely to get to the Shoals by air is Huntsville International Airport, just over an hour away. Memphis and Nashville’s airports are about 2 1/2 away, and Birmingham’s is about two.

Staying There: Of all the towns in the Shoals, Florence has the most lodging options. The rooms at the GunRunner, situated in a former car dealership, are each differently decorated to highlight the music, fashion, art and history of the Shoals area. The cocktail lounge and spa draw locals as well as tourists. The Stricklin—while artfully, though less distinctively, designed than the GunRunner—does offer the convenience of being located right in the entertainment district on Court Street.

Eating There: Odette treats regionally sourced ingredients with care, ranging from an ever-popular cheeseburger to braised pork cheeks with preserved lemon risotto. A block away, the 101-year-old Trowbridge’s is a Court Street staple for pimento-cheese sandwiches and orange-pineapple ice cream (316 N Court St.). Bunyan’s Bar-B-Q is an essential stop for bbq sandwiches and slaw dogs—bright red hot dogs topped with hot slaw—a slightly spicy regionally distinctive cole slaw. While Staggs Grocery is famous for their burgers, visit on a Friday morning if possible, when they top their fluffy biscuits with chocolate gravy (1424 Huntsville Rd, Florence). The Rattlesnake Saloon feels like an Old West outlaw’s hideout, albeit one with karaoke on Thursday nights. Note that it is closed during December and January.

Exploring There: You have to step into the basement workspace of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio to fully appreciate just how small of a space birthed such a gargantuan artistic legacy. Tours happen hourly. FAME Studios has an even longer history, and a little more room to move. The studio still looks much as it did when Aretha Franklin first came there in 1967, though evidence of its continued use is apparent, like the doodle that Steven Tyler of Aerosmith drew on the recording console during a recent recording session. Billy Reid’s flagship store on Court Street offers exclusive garments like a track jacket with FLORENCE emblazoned across the chest, along with the designer’s full range. Visitors to Alabama Chanin can shop, eat in the cafe and take tours of the design and production facilities weekdays at 2 p.m. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum House sits like a stylish spaceship, landed in the middle of a neighborhood full of traditional brick homes. The interior is just as strikingly modern.

For the complete article please see

ShoalsFest promoters see festival as a success
From the article by Russ Corey on

Tina Kitchens doesn’t know Jason Isbell personally, but she’d like to think he’s pleased with the results of the music festival he helped bring to the Shoals on Saturday.

Isbell was behind the inaugural ShoalsFest, a one-day music festival held in the city’s McFarland Park on the Tennessee River. The festival was Saturday, but it took the best part of the week to set up the necessary infrastructure needed to host a festival of this type.

“I’m proud of the city employees,” said Kitchens, the city’s parks and recreation director. “It took several departments working together. I’m hoping Jason was proud of it, too. I know the crowd was showing him some love.”

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit closed the festival in front of a sea of fans who were either standing in front of the stage or seated amidst a mass of chairs behind the soundboard where a large video screen was erected to help those whose view was obscured.

Florence Police Capt. Steven Robertson said about 25-30 officers worked the festival throughout the day.

“It went really well as far as we could see,” Robertson said. “We had the minor things we knew we would, a few minor medical issues. The parking worked out great. We basically treated it as a larger scale fourth of July.”

He said the crowed was “well over 5,000” people.

Robertson said there were only four arrests for public intoxication and two of those involved boaters.

“It was a very well behaved crowd,” Robertson said.

Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency Director George Grabryan said there were only a couple of incidents of people being treated for heat related issues.

“It was a really good event for us on the public safety side,” Grabryan said.

Florence-Lauderdale Tourism President/CEO Rob Carnegie said he spoke to people from all over the county including Denver, Colorado, and New York City. He said about 90% of the people he spoke to at the tourism bureau’s booth lived two hours or more from the Shoals.

“It was beyond anything we could ask for or imagine,” Carnegie said. “I’ve been to a few festivals and I feel like it rivaled any festival out there, especially being in its first year.”

State Tourism Director Lee Sentell said ShoalsFest seemed like a festival that was in its fourth or fifth year.

“I had the most fun on Friday night at the Shoals Theatre because the vast majority of people in the audience were friends with the people on stage,” Sentell said.

He was referring to the Jason Isbell and Friends show that featured Isbell and his band and a host of Shoals musicians playing songs with Shoals connections, including The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” and Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome.”

Florence Mayor Steve Holt presented Isbell with a proclamation and key to the city during a brief ceremony backstage before the Friday show.

Following Mavis Staples’ performance Saturday during ShoalsFest, Sentell presented the singer with an award from the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, of which he is the chairman.

“We thought it would be a good opportunity to recognize the decades of work that Mavis and her contemporaries have devoted to using music to uplift other foot soldiers in the civil rights movement,” Sentell said.

About midway into her set, Staples called up Swampers bassist David Hood, who recorded with her when she was still with The Staples Singers. The Staples Singers recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1972. Hood took over bass duties for The Staples Singers’ classic “Respect Yourself.”

“It’s always so much fun for me to play music we recorded with Mavis, like ‘Respect Yourself’ and ‘I’ll Take You There,'” Hood said. “But it takes on a whole new meaning when you play it standing next to Mavis, hearing her sing and seeing that beautiful smile. It’s was a very, very special night for me.”

Isbell also came out to perform with Staples and did the same during his wife, Amanda Shires’ set, and the rousing set by Sheryl Crow.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Executive Director Debbie Wilson said ShoalsFest organizers were pleased and are optimistic about next year.

“We couldn’t be happier with how the festival turned out,” said Isbell’s manager and show organizer Traci Thomas. “We appreciate the support of the community and the fans. We hope to share plans for 2020 soon.”

Thomas’ local point person, Judy Hood, said a world-class team was put together to organize and execute the festival.

“I was honored to be a part of it,” she said. “It took us about nine months to pull everything together and the advance planning really paid off. It was pretty much smooth sailing Saturday night.”

She said the festival is sustainable and the main reason is the way local officials cooperated with the concert planners.

“We had 100 percent support every step of the way,” Hood said.

Holt said the festival couldn’t have been better.

“The comments I’ve heard from audience members and our department heads is how professional the security people were,” Holt said. “They knew what they were doing. People were actually coming up to me telling me how organized it was.”

Carnegie and Holt said with the softball tournament at the city’s sportsplex, hotels in the Shoals were booked solid.

Holt said he appreciated Isbell’s vision for the festival and thanked him for bringing it to the city.

“He certainly has the city’s support to do it as an annual event,” Holt said.

For the complete article please see

Get a glimpse of the unusual at Alabama’s museums
From the article by Vanessa Day on

The word museum often conjures up images of classic themes: Art, history and science. Alabama has its fair share of these, each with intriguing and educational exhibits. However, there are a handful of Alabama museums that get groups off the beaten path and introduce them to a unique world. Groups looking to experience something just a little different should definitely give these museums a look.

Cook Museum of Natural Science
Located in downtown Decatur, Alabama, The Cook Museum of Natural Science is a new facility opened in June 2019. However, its roots date back more than 50 years. Back in 1968, John Cook, Sr. opened a small insect collection to the public. The collection soon grew to include fossils, minerals, seashells and mounted wildlife, and was officially named Cook’s Natural Science Museum in the 1980s. While the new museum still houses an impressive insect display, it also features several other interactive and immersive exhibits to teach groups about the natural world.

Groups can wander through an authentic replica of an Alabama cave, filled with hidden animals and winding pathways. Guests can learn all about the cave environment and the species that call it home. The forests exhibit transports groups into the wilderness of the Southeast, introducing them to the flora and fauna that inhabit these magical worlds. Groups can get hands-on in the Foundations exhibit, which features a kinetic sand table where guests can create natural structures to their hearts’ content.

Tim Hollis’ Pop Culture Museum
In Dora, Alabama, just outside Birmingham, groups will find a small, but mighty museum filled with some fun and unusual pop culture items. Tim Hollis’ Pop Culture Museum is housed in the home of the local author and showcases more than 11,000 pieces of memorabilia collected by Hollis. Over the years (Hollis has been growing his museum collection since 1981), the writer picked up everything from toys and games to lunch boxes and cereal.

What began as a testament to a man’s childhood transformed into a full-blown museum that captures the everyday joys of generations. Hollis’ collection fills a two-story addition to his home and features some funky and memorable items including board games and children’s books that will almost certainly fill you with nostalgia.

Groups can travel through time as they see what’s gathered here: a 50-year-old Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket, shopping bags from local grocery stores, a Bugs Bunny lunchbox, and an original Mr. Potato Head kit where kids used real potatoes to create the character. (Visits are by appointment only.)

Berman Museum of World History
Don’t let the name fool you, this is no ordinary history museum. Located in Anniston, The Berman Museum chronicles the story of Farley and Germaine Berman, two world travelers who collected artifacts from the places they visited. By the end of their traveling years, they had collected thousands of unique pieces, from weaponry to sculptures.

The museum, which opened in 1996, houses the couple’s extensive collection, as well as the Dr. Oliver and Pei-hwa Foo Asian collection. Groups can peruse the exotic weapons in the Deadly Beauty gallery, filled with Berman’s collection of spy and combination weapons.

The Persian Scimitar of Abbas is a must-see, encrusted with 1,295 diamonds, 50 carats worth of rubies, a 10-carat emerald, and three pounds of gold. In the World Wars galleries, groups can view artifacts and images from both World Wars, including Adolf Hitler’s personal silver tea service. The American West gallery includes firearms and weapons dating from the American Revolution up to the Spanish-American War.

Barber Motorsports Museum
Motorcycle enthusiasts looking to find the biggest collection of the two-wheeled machines should look no further than the Barber Motorsports Museum in Leeds, Alabama. That’s right, the world’s largest motorcycle collection can be found here, along with some rare transportation vehicles. Started by business executive and motorsports racer George Barber, the museum opened in 1994 showcasing the engineering and design behind motorcycles. Today, it’s home to more than 1,600 motorcycles, some dating back more than 100 years.

Groups visiting the Barber Motorsports Museum can see how the machines transformed over time, from a steampowered motorcycle built back in 1867, to the military Harley dubbed The Ginny built in the 1940s, to The Britten V1000, an innovative carbon fiber beauty built in 1995.

For the complete article please see

Golf Magazine puts Ross Bridge on 100 Best Resorts list
From the article by Erica Joiner West on

Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa has been named to Golf Magazine’s 100 best golf resorts in North America. Located in Hoover, Ross Bridge was ranked as one of the top 25 Buddy Trips in North America.

Part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail developed by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, this was the first time Ross Bridge was named to Golf Magazine’s listing. More than 3,700 golfers reviewed 250 golf resorts across North America for Golf Magazine’s ranking. Once the selection process was complete, the magazine’s panelists and editors then categorized the locations into luxury, buddies, general excellence and family categories.

“To be compared with iconic golf venues such as Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Bandon Dunes, Broadmoor, Greenbrier and others showcases the quality of golf experience we deliver in Alabama,” said John Cannon, president of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

Ross Bridge, designed by Bobby Vaughan and Roger Rulewich on 330 acres, is one of the longest courses in the world at 8,191 yards, but offers multiple tees for golfers of all levels. Carved into the rolling terrain of the Shannon Valley, the golf course features 10 holes along the banks of two lakes. Considerable elevation change combines with the water and other natural obstructions to make the course a challenge.

Located on the heart of the course is the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa, which features 259 rooms with 15,500 square feet of meeting space, a fitness center and The Spa at Ross Bridge, offering custom treatments.

Over the past 27 years, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has welcomed more than 13 million golfers to Alabama.

For the complete article please see

Local barbecue teams featured on Destination America TV show
From the article by Russ Corey on

Two backyard barbecue cook teams will be featured on the third season of “Bama-Q,” a cable TV show that follows members of the Alabama Barbecue Association as they compete against the best barbecue teams from all over the US.

Russell Allen of Florence said he and Sweet Cheeks Pit BBQ of Muscle Shoals will be featured in the third season, which begins Saturday on Destination America. Sweet Cheeks Pit BBQ is Morgan and Vannah Cheek. Allen’s team is Redbones BBQ.

“They’re in the process of following us now,” Allen said. “They’ve been following us since February.”

The show normally follows professional barbecue cooks, but is also following amateur teams this year. Another Alabama team, Rob Nelson’s Beer Pressure team from Huntsville, is also featured on the show.

The teams compete in contests sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, Allen said.

Allen said he and Sweet Cheeks Pit BBQ have also qualified for the World Food Championship in Dallas, Texas, in November.

“This is the biggest stage anywhere for a chef or home cook to show their talents for a chance to win over $100,000,” Allen said.

Allen said the teams also compete in the Alabama BBQ Association where the Cheeks are currently first in points and Allen is fifth out of 60 teams.

Barbecue teams follow a “trail” that allows competitors to earn points for a final championship.

Allen said the teams will be in several of the 13 episodes.

The first episode of the third season airs at 7 a.m. Saturday on Destination America.

For the complete article please see

Shelby Co. Chamber honors tourism and recreation all-stars
From the article by Leah Ingram Eagle on

The Shelby County Chamber held their inaugural Tourism & Recreation All Star Awards at Thursday’s Chamber Connections Luncheon at First Baptist Church of Columbiana.

The program was a joint presentation by the Chelsea Business Alliance, Montevallo Chamber of Commerce and the Shelby County Chamber. The goal was to to honor entities in the tourism and recreation business sector who making Shelby County a more attractive destination for tourists and visitors every day.

The featured speaker was Lee Sentell, Alabama’s Director of Tourism, who has held the role since January 2003. Sentell shared that there are 4,500 direct jobs in the tourism industry in Shelby County. In 2019, tourists will pay $1 billion in state and local taxes, a lot of which comes to Shelby County.

“Shelby County is up 6.5 percent over last year for tourism and state-wide has increased 9 percent,” Sentell said. “When I came into my position, the state had $6 billion in tourism each year and this year will cross $18 billion. Alabama is growing by one million new tourists per year.”

For the complete article please see

Free walking tours explore Huntsville’s rich history
From the article by Claire Farrow on

October is Huntsville History Month, and what better way to celebrate the Rocket City’s rich history than with a free, guided historic walking tour?

Two free walking tours will explore two historic districts in the city – Five Points Historic Disctrict and Old Town Historic District. These free tours are open to the public and no reservations are required.

The Five Points Historic District tour will be held on Oct. 5, starting at 10 a.m. Meet up and departure for this tour will be at the corner of Wells Avenue and Maple Hill Drive (NW corner of Maple Hill Cemetery), with Jan Williams serving as the tour guide.

The Old Town Historic District will be held on Oct. 12, also starting at 10 a.m. Meet up and departure for this tour will be at 122 Walker Ave. in Huntsville, with Mike and Cathy Self as tour guides.

Leashed pets and strollers are welcome on both tours.

Among the city’s several historic districts, the downtown Huntsville historic districts (Twickenham, Old Town and Five Points) are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This official list contains places considered worthy of preservation for their significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture.

Free walking tours exploring Alabama’s past were initiated by the Alabama Tourism Department in 2003, using Huntsville’s walking tours as a model, to foster the exploration of Alabama’s history and culture, especially in downtown areas.

Alabama is the only state with annual coordinated, state-wide walking tours.

For the complete article please see

USDA Forest Service urges precaution as fire activity in Alabama increases
The U.S. Forest Service is urging citizens to do their part to protect Alabama from wildland fires. In less than one week, 11 wildfires have sparked on Alabama’s National Forest lands ranging from .1 to 721 acres. Wildland firefighters are working tirelessly to control an increase in wildfire activity due to extreme drought conditions.

More than 80 personnel across 15 states are assisting Alabama with wildland fire resources from U.S. Forest Service, state and tribal entities. These resources include personnel, heavy equipment, engines and air support.

Joe Smith, Forest Fire Management Officer (FMO) for the NFs in Alabama, urges the public to use safe practices. “Several of our forests are going on 40 days since any real measurable rain. Even when we do get rain, the effect does not last long, because the ground is so dry,” said Smith. “It will take a good amount of soaking rain to return us to normal conditions.”

The U.S. Forest Service urges citizens to heed Smokey’s message of, “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” and use these precautions before heading out:

• Secure Chains. Dragging chains throw sparks and can cause wildfires.
• Use Camping Fire Safety. Ensure campfires or pile burns, where permitted, are completely extinguished before
leaving. Use the “drown, stir and feel” method before leaving the fire area.
• Be Cautious Near Dry Vegetation. Do not drive, idle or park vehicles on dry vegetation. Hot exhaust pipes and
mufflers can start fires.

Smith said, “Any way you can help is appreciated. Your precautions, extra set of eyes and early 9-1-1 calls will be the key to responding to these fires while still small.”

The National Forests in Alabama wildland firefighters have also assisted their state partner, The Alabama Forestry Commission, in providing initial attack and support to protect threatened structures in forested areas and containment efforts of roadside flames on at least eight wildfires within this week.

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
The holidays are quickly approaching. Be sure to add any special holiday events to your listing and include detailed information and photos. Your events may even be featured on our Event Calendar.

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