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Forestry Commission deals with increased fire danger

Forty-three counties in Arkansas are currently under a burn ban and drought conditions are expected to not only persist but intensify. The Arkansas Forestry Commission is scrambling, dealing with 174 wildfires and 2,600 acres burned so far this June.
MALVERN, AR - Forty-three counties in Arkansas are currently under a burn ban and drought conditions are expected to not only persist but intensify. The Arkansas Forestry Commission is scrambling, dealing with 174 wildfires and 2,600 acres burned so far this June.

This past weekend alone, 900 acres burned. That is the same area that burned all of last June.

The Forestry Commission’s dispatch center in Malvern is very busy, keeping tabs on the weather, fielding multiple fire calls, and monitoring the crews fighting them.

“We have extra help coming in assisting,” says Fire Management Officer Mark Cutrer. “We’re kind of short handed; we have a few people out sick.”

It’s been a rough day and rough month with more fires burning, more crews fighting, and more money spent this year, almost double compared to this time last year.

“The heat is a lot more than it was at this time last year,” says Marcus Scott Reed, the Fire Weather Supervisor. “It’s a lot hotter than it was so it’s definitely affecting our fires and our acres this year.”

Right now they’re worried the fire danger has increased and without any rain, the outlook isn’t good.

“One of the things that’s been helping us out is the wind hasn’t been very high. That’s something we’re watching,” said Reed.

That is why communication is crucial; making sure information is updated so crews all over the state are ready to respond at a moments notice. So far, the AFC isn’t asking for help from outside the state, but that could change.

Cutrer says the current situation in Arkansas is pretty crucial. “No rain in the forecast, it’s dry, it’s triple digit temperatures, there are burn bans in quite a few counties.”

Monday, AFC worked on 7 active fires. Usually, Arkansas crews can assist other states with fires, such as those in Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, but this summer every crew is needed at home.

In addition to poor weather conditions, the AFC also has to contend with their budget. The rising price of the fuel that goes into the trucks, dozers, and airplanes makes fighting fires costly.
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