Sipsey Wilderness Fire, Gulf Coast Coral Damage

Oct 28, 2015

Aerial view of Sipsey Wilderness fire
Credit USDA Forest Service

Even after rainy weather doused much of the state, fire crews are still working to contain a wildfire in northwest Alabama.

The “Big Tree Fire” in the Sipsey Wilderness portion of Bankhead National Forest has been burning since October 16. The USDA Forest Service estimates nearly 2,000 acres of land has been impacted.

Blake Morris works with the USDA Forest Service at Talladega National Forest. He says despite the fire’s large footprint, very few trees are being affected.

“Most of our fires just burn the leaf litter that’s on the forest floor. It will affect a few smaller trees that can’t withstand the heat of the fire, but overstory timber most likely will not be affected.”

At one point, over 70 firefighters from four states were involved in suppression efforts. Forestry and law enforcement officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.

A new study reveals that toxins from BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico damaged coral in a larger arc than previously mapped. APR’s MacKenzie Bates has the details.

Researchers discovered sick and dying corals in the Pinnacles, a rich, deep-water environment off the coasts of Alabama and Mississippi.

Using remotely operated submarines, researchers explored the Pinnacle Reef in September 2011 and found more than 400 coral colonies were injured.

Corals, such as sea whips, sea fans and black corals were covered in a biofilm. Some showed severe damage, such as bare skeletons and missing branches.

The study was conducted by a team of Florida State University and federal scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The study is set to be published in Deep-Sea Research, an oceanography journal.

Jurors will begin hearing testimony today in the retrial of a former Alabama police officer accused of violating the civil rights of an Indian grandfather.

Federal prosecutors will call their first witnesses today in their second attempt to convict former Madison police officer Eric Parker of using excessive force against 58-year-old Sureshbhai Patel.

Parker threw Patel to the ground after responding to a call about a suspicious man. Patel was walking in the suburban neighborhood where he had just moved to live with his son.

Lawyers made their opening statements in the trial yesterday. Federal prosecutor Robert Posey said there was no justifying the takedown that left Patel partially paralyzed. Defense lawyer Robert Tuten said Patel repeatedly disobeyed officers. Tuten said there was an unfortunate language barrier but he said visitors are expected to speak a country's dominant language.

Parker's first trial ended with a hung jury.

GE Aviation is building twin factories in Huntsville that are expected to eventually employ up to 300 people.

Gov. Robert Bentley made the announcement yesterday at a press conference at the state Capitol. The plants will produce silicon carbide materials used in jet engines.

GE Aviation has an existing plant in Auburn. Construction on the new facilities is expected to begin in the middle of next year, with production expected to start in early 2018.

GE Aviation will invest approximately $200 million in the new factories. Gov. Bentley said the state was pleased to expand its partnership with the company.