LITTLE ROCK, ARK. – 37 counties in south and central Arkansas have been placed under moderate wildfire danger due to dry vegetation and predicted dry conditions through the weekend and beyond. 13 Burn Bans are active in Chicot, Faulkner, Garland Jefferson, Lincoln, Hempstead, Howard, Miller, Montgomery, Ouachita, Polk, Saline, and Union Counties.
Should dry, hot weather continue, Arkansas has the possibility of experiencing heightened wildfire danger this month and through the coming fall season. August is the normal beginning for the second yearly wildfire season in Arkansas, which usually take place February-April and August-October, and are always weather-dependent.
What weather factors create Arkansas wildfire danger? Humidity is the primary predicting fire weather factor, as it affects the intensity – or lack thereof – of wildfires. During higher humidity, a wildfire may start, but can be quickly contained because high moisture levels in the atmosphere keep it from gaining energy and speed. Wind holds a close second in terms of affecting how quickly wildfires can spread. When vegetation (fuel for fire including trees, grass, brush, leaves, pine needles, etc.) is dry for an extended period of time, and subjected to high temperatures, humidity levels drop below 40%, and wind gusts reach speeds above 10 mph, conditions are right for wildfire activity in Arkansas.
How do Arkansas wildfire numbers break down? Yesterday 128 acres burned in seven wildfires. 246 acres have burned this first week of August, in 30 wildfires. For all of 2015 to-date, 9,732 acres have burned in Arkansas, in 617 wildfires.
2015 wildfire statistics are relatively low compared to the last year of high wildfire frequency –which was 2012, when 34,434 acres burned. In both 2013 and 2014, Arkansas experienced lower-than-normal wildfire frequency. Arkansas has had good growing seasons this year and the previous two years, alongside fewer wildfires, which also means more fuels are on the ground for wildfires to burn.
If Arkansans are not under a Burn Ban, and must burn outdoors, what precautions should be taken to burn safely?
- Before you burn, check to see if your county is under an active Burn Ban. See map of all Burn Bans reported to AFC Dispatch at arkfireinfo.org and/or contact your local Sherriff’s Office or County Judge’s Office. Remember, County Judges declare official Arkansas Burn Bans.
- Burn only when humidity levels remain above 40%.
- Burn only when the wind speed is low, with gusts no more than 5-10 mph. Wind gusts of higher than 5-10 mph can create out-of-control wildfires, quickly.
- Plan your burn for the early morning or late in the afternoon, avoiding the middle of the day when the humidity is at its lowest and the temperature is at its highest.
- Always plan to stay with your burn, throughout the duration of live flames. After your fire burns out, or you extinguish flames, plan to re-check your burn site often and especially early the next day for remaining signs of smoke.
- Avoid burning near structures, vehicles and carports, roads, porches and deck areas, trees and overhanging branches, flashy fuels like leaves and pine needles, and anything else that could burn.
- Always keep a water source nearby, in case of an emergency situation.
- When you prepare a burn site, dig a dirt barrier around your intended burn area; even if you’re burning in grass, the dirt ring creates a fire-resistant barrier so that flames stay where you intend. Remember that grass may burn rapidly when conditions are this dry (especially in south Arkansas).
- Call the AFC Dispatch Center to report wildfires at 1-800-468-8834. Report emergencies by calling 911.
Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) are brought in on contract by the AFC during both periods of elevated wildfire danger in Arkansas to assist ground crews with aerial wildfire suppression. SEAT planes are dispatched through the AFC Dispatch Center.
Stay updated on Wildfire Danger and Burn Bans reported to AFC Dispatch at www.arkfireinfo.org and/or facebook.com/ArkansasForestryCommission and @ARForestryComm. Find contact information for your local AFC Crew by visiting forestry.arkansas.gov and choosing the “Contact Us” icon in the upper right of the homepage.
The mission of the Arkansas Forestry Commission is to protect Arkansas’s forests, and those who enjoy them, from wildland fire and natural hazards while promoting rural and urban forest health, stewardship, development, and conservation for all generations of Arkansans.
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The Arkansas Forestry Commission offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.