All of Arkansas’ 75 counties have been placed under an “Extreme Wildfire Danger” by the Arkansas Forestry Commission.
“Open burning should not be attempted during extreme fire danger,” the AFC website states. “High winds and extended dry periods lead to extreme burning conditions. Open fires can quickly escape and are very difficult to control. Spot fires occur ahead of the main fire, and erratic burning conditions make fires difficult to control…even for experienced fire fighters.”
All but five Arkansas counties are currently under a burn ban.
Residents are reminded that sparks from lawn mowers and hay baling equipment can start fires. Also, areas where grass or other vegetation can touch the exhaust system can quickly lead to fires, as can cigarettes discarded from vehicles.
Local firefighters and Arkansas Forestry Commission crews brought a wildfire that burned about 400 acres in southwestern Arkansas under control late Friday, allowing dozens of people to return to their homes. The blaze was nearly 100 percent contained by 10 p.m., but not completely out, Hot Spring County deputy Emergency Management Director Robin Halbert said. Officials evacuated 25 homes in the Amity and Bonnerdale areas Friday afternoon as a precaution, but no homes were damaged, Halbert said.
“It’s probably going to burn for a couple of more weeks, but the dangerous part seems to have subsided,” Halbert said.
One firefighter suffered a slight injury that required him to get stitches, but there were no other reports of other injuries, State Forester Joe Fox said.
The blaze, fanned by gusty winds, began in Clark County and spread toward Hot Spring County Friday afternoon, officials said.
Single-engine airplanes dropped a mixture of water and foam on the fire, and bulldozers helped cut a firebreak to impede the flames’ progression, Fox said.
At least two barns were damaged in Clark County, Halbert said.
“Conditions throughout the entire state are pretty favorable for wildfires,” Chad Stover, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said. “We just want to take as many precautions as possible.”
A few homes were evacuated in Franklin County after a grass fire erupted there, but a sheriff’s dispatcher said the fire had been contained by early Friday night. He hadn’t received any reports of injuries.