One match and a gust of wind sent Cullman County volunteer firefighters into an effort to contain a blaze that burned 20 acres of pasture land near Fairview on Wednesday.

"My son (Jason) was out burning his children's Christmas boxes," said property owner Melynda Teichmiller. "It all started with one match."

"He went inside and left it unattended," said Joe Golden, chief of the Gold Ridge Volunteer Fire Department.

Gold Ridge Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Gene Lloyd said Wednesday's windy conditions caused the fire to spread quickly.

"The wind really played havoc with it," Lloyd said.

The fire occurred on County Road 1474 in the Gold Ridge district, but it quickly became clear that more help would be needed to put out the flames. Firefighters from the Fairview and Vinemont-Providence departments also helped put out the fire.

Teichmiller said she was initially concerned the fire could damage a nearby home, although that did not turn out to be the case. It did scorch the pasture land that cattle use for grazing, but none of the cattle were harmed.

"It was a windy day, not a good day to be out burning something," Golden said.

His department answered four such calls during the day. His department also fought fires on County Roads 1437, 1514 and 1527.

"It was that way all around the county," Golden said. "I think most departments were pretty busy."

Golden said residents should not leave fires unattended.

"They also need to make sure they have the proper tools to put it out," Golden said.

Despite Wednesday's windy conditions, Cullman County was not under a fire alert, according to Alabama Forestry Commission. The county had been under a fire alert in late fall, but rain earlier this month caused the alert to be lifted.

While the forestry commission issued no warning, Lewis Tapley, a regional extension agent for forestry, warned that windy conditions were never a good time to burn.

"Today actually would have been a good day to burn — with all the moisture and all that we've got — if it were not so windy," he said.

Tapley gave some useful tips for burning outdoors.

"It's a good idea to keep a garden hose around just in case, or at least some buckets or a pump sprayer with water in it," he said.

Other tips included keeping a fire blanket close by to smother the fire and raking possible combustibles away from the fire.

For the ultimate in outdoor fire protection, Tapley said to plow around the fire with a tractor to ensure no combustibles were nearby.

While outdoor burning is legal in most of Cullman County, the forestry commission requires any person planning to burn more than 1/4 of an acre get a burn permit.

"It's really a common sense thing," said Tapley. "People think it won't happen to them, but it does."

To contact the state forestry commission for a burn permit, call 734-0573. To report a wildfire in Cullman County, call (800)942-3107.

• Evan Belanger contributed to this report.

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