USDA Forest Service Update on Lake Chinnabee Wildfire, Monday, Nov. 29

Photo courtesy of Dorrie Stinnette

Montgomery, AL (November 29, 2016) —- The USDA Forest Service is continuing suppression efforts on the Lake Chinnabee Wildfire about 3 miles west of Cheaha State Park on Cheaha Road.  The estimated 1,380 acre wildfire has closed the Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area, Lakeshore Trail and a western section of the Chinnabee Silent Trail located in the Talladega National Forest. National Forest System Roads 637B, 637C to Cheaha Blacktop and Cheaha Road are also currently closed because of the wildfire

Photo courtesy of Dana Strickland
Photo courtesy of Dana Strickland, Shinbone Fire

“Last night’s rain did help to calm the fire, but the high winds caused flaming debris to cross Cheaha Road,” said Gloria Nielsen, Talladega District Ranger.  The Lake Chinnabee Wildfire is within the containment lines.   Forest Service officials express their sincere thanks to local law enforcement, volunteer fire departments and all the many detailers from other states who have helped us with wildfire suppression.

Photo courtesy of David Wilkinson-Coppermine Fire
Photo courtesy of David Wilkinson-Coppermine Fire

For further information about the Talladega National Forest, the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail or other recreation opportunities in the Talladega National Forest, Talladega District, contact the Ranger District at 256-362-2909 or visit online at

Photo courtesy of Dana Strickland, Shinbone Fire
Photo courtesy of Dana Strickland, Shinbone Fire

Loren Daniel Bunner to Stand Trial as an Adult


A recent court ruling by the Clay County Circuit Court has shown that Loren Daniel Bunner will stand Trial as an adult in Clay County. The court had previously ruled that Bunner be granted Youthful Offender.callan 1

In an order filed November 16th, 2016, indicates that the previous order granting Youthful Offender is withdrawn and the application for Youthful Offender is denied.callan 2

Bunner was charged in the Murder of Jolee Nicole Callan on August 30th, 2015 while on the Pinhoti Trail in Clay County near the Cheaha State Park. Bunner is set for arraignment on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 @ 9am at the Clay County Courthouse.

Picture Bunner posted to Instagram moments before her death
Picture Bunner posted to Instagram moments before her death

Wildfire Update: 6:23 pm.

che rd 5Late breaking news from a member of the Shinbone Valley Fire Dept on the scene of Cheaha Rd, which has been evacuated, due to the quickly spreading wildfire that began in the Lake Chinabee area around 2:00 am this morning. che rd 3

As you can see, this fire is burning extremely hot! This pictures were taken as Shinbone Fire made their way through the heavy smoke and the fire burns on both sides of the road. che rd 1

Between U.S. Forestry, Shinbone Valley Fire and Coppermine Fire, there is a tanker truck parked beside each residence on this road for protection. This firefighter told me it was very bad up there and they were just praying they would make it out of there alive tonight. che rd 2

Although rain is on the way, it is still several hours out, so please pray for the safety of these firefighters. che rd 4

Forest Service Closes Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area

Below is a press release from U.S. Forestry on the wildfire in the Lake Chinabee area. Due to high winds, this blaze has jumped Cheaha Rd. Rocky Ford Lane and Cheaha Rd. has been evacuated for this wildfire due to threat of personal property.

che 2 Shinbone and Coppermine Volunteer Fire Depts have been called in to assist. Shinbone has been on the scene since 2:00 am this morning. Fixed wing aircraft and helicopters have been called to assist with fire suppression. 

Photo courtesy of Wendy Capps
Photo courtesy of Wendy Capps


Montgomery, AL (November 28, 2016) —- The USDA Forest Service is working to contain the Lake Chinnabee Wildfire which is located near Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area about 3 miles west of Cheaha State Park on Cheaha Road.  Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area and the Lakeshore Trail which traverses around Lake Chinnabee are closed.  The western section of the Chinnabee Silent Trail is also closed.  Hikers can still use the Chinnabee Silent Trail down to the Skyway Loop Trail just east of Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area.   che 5


“The Lake Chinnabee Wildfire has the potential to be around 1500 acres in size due to the steep terrain and lack of natural or manmade barriers.  Firelines are being constructed around the wildfire at this time” said Gloria Nielsen, Talladega District Ranger.   Forest Service officials caution visitors to be aware fire fighters working in the area.

Photo courtesy of Sylvia Harris
Photo courtesy of Sylvia Harris

For further information about the Talladega National Forest, the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail or other recreation opportunities in the Talladega National Forest, Talladega District, contact the Ranger District at 256-362-2909 or visit online at 3

Former NFL Player and Lineville Native Gives Back

Sometimes in life, you get to a place where you know you have been blessed along the way and you want to give back. After all, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about anyway. Focusing on your true blessings in life and enriching others in any way possible. That’s what we were meant to do in life. And if you bestow blessings on others, it will lift you up in more ways than you will ever imagine. JC 4

On Sunday, November 19, 2016,  former NFL player and Lineville native Johnathan Carter found himself in this very place and felt the need to reach to reach out to those in need just  4 days shy of Thanksgiving. JC 6

Johnathan has received many blessings in his life and wanted to give back in some way, just to show the people that he cared. So, at approximately 4:00 PM on this glorious Sunday, Johnathan, alongside his family, friends, and church family distributed out 150 free turkeys  in the Wells Fargo parking lot  in Lineville to anyone who showed up to get one. There was no asking questions about any situation, it was simply a true act of kindness. JC 7

Johnathan was raised by a single mother, with the support of extended family. Regardless of how hard it was to make ends meet, Joann Carter, a strong, independent woman, instilled invaluable lessons in her son that would carry him throughout his lifetime. JC 2

One of Johnathan’s outlets in his life was football, and he was good at it. After excelling as a star player for the Lineville Aggies, Johnathan became a walk-on  at Troy State University where he played for 2 years before he was drafted by the New York Giants. He played for the Giants 2001-2002,  and then played for New York Jets from 2002-2006.JC 1

This turkey giveaway was the kick off of Johnathan’s non-profit organization, The JC Foundation.  Future plans for this organization will include many, such as  and shopping sprees for families in need for the holidays and 60 minutes camps promoting exercise for our youth that will involve some type of sponsorship by the NFL.  JC 3

Folks, this is how you spread joy and happiness and THAT is the true meaning of the holidays. This kind of behavior is infectious and promotes positivity that can change humanity as we know it, and Lord knows, we need more of these random acts of kindness.

I applaud Johnathan Carter’s kind gesture and hope that this story will challenge you to bless someone in some form or fashion as well. I promise you, it will be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever know. Remember, Thanksgiving is not just about food, football, and big sales, it’s about giving back….

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Board Members Take Office; Jr. High Principal Named

In a special called session of the Clay County Board of Education , the newly elected members, Bruce Sims ( District 5) and Chris Jackson ( District 2) were sworn in by Probate Judge Dianne Branch and it was back to business as usual with re-elected Superintendent Billy Walker, who begins his second term.

Board 3
Bruce Sims
The Board elected the following to these positions for a one year period:
Bruce Sims as Board President
Shane Davidson as Vice-President
Chris Jackson
Chris Jackson
It was a relatively short agenda. Board members approved to open the District 4 Board Seat, due to the resignation of Greg Denney, who was elected as  Clay County Commissioner-District 4 in the Nov. 8th election. This seat has a remaining 4 yr term left,
The board will not accept resumes’ from any interested person in District 4 to fill the vacant District 4 Seat on the Clay County Board of Education.  Resumes’ should be sent or delivered to the Clay County Central Office.board 1
In other business, the following personnel action items were approved:
RESIGNATIONS: Devita Trammell – Lunchroom worker at Ashland Elementary
EMPLOY:  Ray Sewell as Principal at Central Jr. High School
Assistant Principal – Central High School  – Applications should be sent to Mr.Russell Hathcock at Central High School of Clay County
Lunchroom Worker – Ashland Elementary Cafeteria – Applications should be sent to Mrs. Juanita Riley at the Central Office.
This concluded the agenda.
 Under informational items, Superintendent Walker reported that Interquest Detection Canines  will conduct a demonstration at the Central High School Campus in the next few weeks. Walker explained these non- aggressive canines would be able to sniff out any legal prescription drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol, and firearms without going into lock down procedure and would not disrupt any classes.
Walker stated they were considering contracting with this canine service and these demonstrations would take place on a random basis. Walker felt this was an opportunity to provide a safety measure for our school system. If chosen, this service would be paid through At-Risk funds.
The next regular Board meeting is scheduled for November 29, 2016, at 4:00 PM, at the Board Office.
Clay Co. Schools will be out the week of Nov. 21-25 for Thanksgiving Holiday.

School Bus Complete Loss after Mysterious Fire

On Nov. 1, 2016 around 12:30 am, a 2009 model School bus from the Clay County fleet was completely destroyed by fire  in the yard of the bus driver. DSC_0585

Bus driver, Cindy Horn awoke around 12:30 am, to a loud noise, in the form of an explosion. When she rushed outside to see what was going on, she saw the front of her school bus, fully engulfed.DSC_0602

Photo by Stephanie Patterson Jordan

Despite their best efforts of the responding units, Idaho VFD and Alabama Forestry Commission, the bus was a total loss. It is unknown what may have caused the blaze, but Transportation Superintendent Norman McNatt did tell me the 2009 model bus underwent annual inspection, along with the rest of the fleet, the day prior to this incident, Oct 31st.

All I can say is how relieved I am that this did not happen while the bus was full of kids. I know it’s the loss of a bus, but at least there was no loss of life.

Photo by Stephanie Patterson Jordan

Other responding units were Clay County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Marshal.

Last BOE session for Harris, Oliver

The Board of Education met Thursday, October 27, 2016 for their last session before the newly elected take office. Arthur Oliver was absent.
 The following agenda items were approved:


1. Approval of the agenda.

2. Approval of the minutes from the September 22, 2016 meeting.

3. Approval of the Clay County Schools Counseling and Guidance Plan policy. This was given to board members for review September 8, 2016.

4. Approval for Tessa Giddens and the FCCLA (Career Tech) students to attend the national meeting jn Orlando FL November 16th or 17th through 20th. There will be no cost to the board for this trip.

5.Approval for Terri Grogan and the Clay County Lady Vols softball team to go to Disney’s Wide World of Sports for their Spring Training event this year. Leaving on March 24 and returning on March 29. This is during spring break and will be no cost to the board.

6. Approval of 38 Personnel Action Items which included the following:

EMPLOY- Bobby Hunter as full time Bus Driver

The following Policies for review were given to the board and will be presented for approval at the November meeting.
1.  Cash Management for Federal Funds
2.  Mentoring Program
3.  Jason Flatt Act SB11
Monthly financial reports will be available at the November meeting due to the year-end close.14964265_10206845514769069_543142832_o
This is the last meeting for board members Arthur Oliver and Donald Harris as their terms are expiring and they did not seek re-election to the board.  Walker thanked them for 18 years of service to the Clay County School System and wished them the very best.
The BOE will be welcoming new board members Bruce Sims and Chris Jackson in November.
The next regular board meeting is scheduled for November 29, 2016.

Clairmont Springs Fire Update- Tuesday, Nov. 1

Sorry I haven’t had a chance to update you on the Clairmont Springs fire, or as forestry has named it ” Welcome Home #1″ and “Welcome Home #2”. Don’t ask me where these names come from, but that’s what we got. There hasn’t been an official release put out today, but there was this one yesterday:

Forest Service closes Road 600-2 and section of Pinhoti Trail

Montgomery, AL (October 31, 2016) —- The USDA Forest Service is diligently working to contain the Welcome Home #1 and #2 Wildfires which are located off National Forest System Road (NFSR) 600-2.  The portion of NFSR 600-2 which extends from Adams Gap south to Clairmont Gap, is closed due to wildfire suppression activities.  The Pinhoti National Recreation Trail is also closed for this same section.  Hikers can still use the Pinhoti trail to hike north from Adams Gap and south from Clairmont Gap. 

as seen earlier today from county road 5 to 77, photo by Rachel Mitchell
as seen earlier today from county road 5 to 77, photo by Rachel Mitchell

“The Welcome Home #1 Wildfire along the east slope of Talladega Mountain around Burgess Point will probably be about 1000 acres in size.  Firelines are being constructed around the wildfire at this time, but efforts are being hampered by steep, rocky terrain and the extreme drought conditions” said Gloria Nielsen, Talladega District Ranger.   Local Forest Service employees and Volunteer Fire Departments are being assisted by resources from Georgia, Florida, Montana, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma and North Carolina in this control effort. There will continue to be heavy smoke in the Guntertown, Clairmont Springs and Campbells Crossroads areas for several days due to this large fire and two other smaller fires.  Forest Service officials remind visitors that no camp fires are allowed in the national forest due to drought conditions.      

For further information about the Pinhoti Trail or other recreation opportunities in the Talladega National Forest, Talladega District, contact the Ranger District at 256-362-2909 or visit online at

as seen earlier today in the Co Rd 5/77 area. Photo by Rachel Mitchell
as seen earlier today in the Co Rd 5/77 area. Photo by Rachel Mitchell

Now, I did speak with USDA Forest Service Representative Scott Layfield from the Talladega District earlier today and he seems to think the fire in contained for the most part, or as he referred to it as ” staying inside the box”, this meaning, the blaze has stayed within the prescribed burn lines.

Photo by Kayla Fugatt
Photo by Kayla Fugatt

I spoke to Layfield around 10:00 am this morning and at that time, approximately 1006 acres had burned. There was still some burnout  on the bottom side along side private property though.

This fire has made it to Guntertown Rd and has been closed due to so many trees falling in the road. There is a threat to structures nearby on the south end, but Layfield said the threat gets lower with each passing day they are able to contain it. “We are within 50 yards within houses on the south end, but the threat is not as bad as it was Monday, and we have made these areas a priority, staffing it more heavily”, said Layfield, “On the north end, we are right along property lines, but if we can keep this fire inside the lines, the threat goes down with each day.”

Layfield said they were bringing in a Type 1 Chopper for air support to suppress hot spots until they could get ground resources to them. At current time,, there about over 80 USDA personnel working this fire. 14923968_1035546119900843_1996900098_o

“We feel pretty comfortable we have a hold on it, but unfortunately there are no guarantees with any fire. We have had more success in the last day because the wind wasn’t as bad as it was Sunday.”

That is all I have at the current time. There was no press release issued today. I will try to keep you updated as best I can.

Since October 1, 2016, there have been over 1000 wildfires in the state of Alabama.




Phase 1 Activated for Clay County Drought Contingency Plan; Drought Programs Offered

Lower Reservoir

As the drought deepens in the state of Alabama, and the reservoir levels continue to drop, Clay County is forced to take action. Therefore, Lineville and Ashland Water Departments, and Clay County Water Authority have activated Phase 1 of the Drought Contingency Plan for this county.

Lower Reservoir

These agencies plead with the public to stay in compliance with this phase until rain begins to bring the lake levels back up. However, with no rain in sight, this could be just the beginning of a bad situation.

The upper lake reservoir at the Clay County Watershed  is already down several feet, and the valves have been adjusted 4-5 times. Phase 1 reads as follows:

Phase 1

Prohibited Uses Applicable to All Customers

  • There shall be no hose washing of sidewalks, walkways, driveways, or parking areas, except that flammable or other dangerous substances may be disposed of by direct hose flushing for the benefit of public health and safety.
  • No water shall be used to clean, fill, or maintain levels in swimming pools or decorative fountains unless such water is part of a recycling system.
  • No customer of the System shall permit water to leak from any facility on his premises; failure to effect a timely repair of any leak shall subject said customer to all penalties provided herein for waste of water.
  • No lawn, landscape, or other turf areas including vegetable or flower gardens shall be watered or irrigated using water from the System until adequate water supplies are available.
  • No washing of automobiles, trucks, tractors, trailers, or any other vehicle or part thereof will be permitted until normal conditions are reinstated.

    Lower Reservoir

Also, In light of the drought conditions affecting our state, 32 counties in Alabama, including Clay County,  have been designated as primary natural disaster areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now offering several drought programs for farmers affected, which include the following:


  • Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP)- This is meant to provide compensation to eligible livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to drought.
  • Emergency Loan Program (ELP)- An emergency loan that is offered by FSA to producers within counties that are declared a primary disaster area. Contiguous counties are eligible for emergency loans.
  • Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP)- NAP provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops to protect against natural disasters that results in minimal yields or crop losses.

Commissioner John McMillan of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries encourages those impacted by the drought to contact their local USDA-Farm Services Agency about the eligibility of these available programs.