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Ice Storm Damage Creates Big Problem for Wildfire Season

Arkansas Forestry Commission asking residents to make a defensible space around their homes.
PULASKI COUNTY, AR -- Weeks after a winter storm swept through Arkansas, fallen tree limbs and debris from the ice are posing a major risk for the wildfire season.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission is asking you to clear a safe space around your home, because in the next dry period we have, the debris becomes dry, making it a fuel for a forest fire. Turns out residents are already taking steps to prevent a wildfire from reaching their homes.

"I had to cut this down, so it wouldn't fall on my house because it was dead you know," said resident James Ashley.

It's been a repetition week after week for Ashley, a Pulaski County resident. He's been cleaning up the damage left behind from the winter storms and recent ice accumulation. It left a path of debris around his yard, posing a safety concern to his house and family.

"Maybe once or twice a week you get fallen limbs and you go stand in your yard once or twice a week," Ashley said. "It's not too hard if you're smart about it."

Clearing up a safe space around his home is all new to Ashley. The new homeowner still has plenty of work to do. He's busy cutting what's left of several trees and removing sticks and brush off his roof.

"If you have any stick piles, you don't want it anywhere close to your house," he advised.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission is working with rural fire departments and homeowners through a federally funded program called Fire Wise. It helps educate folks about building a defensible space in an event of a wildfire.

"Teach them those methods they can do, things they can use, plants they can put in their yards that are less flammable," explains Joe Fox, Arkansas State Forester.

State Forester Joe Fox says this would help save Arkansans and the state millions of dollars.

"Something on the order of 700 homes were threatened in 2012, and just do the math, if the average price of the home was $100,000, that'd be $70 million save," Fox said.

These are savings that will go a long way for residents like Ashley, who don't mind the work just to stay safe.

"I just gotta get some saw gust and a file for my saw and use this as fire wood," Ashley said.

Another way to rid of the debris is burn it when there isn't a burn ban, according to the Arkansas Forestry Commission.
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