"Our crews were at their limits," said Marc Phillips, District 8 Forester. AFC District eight covers Fulton, Independence, Izard, Lawrence, Randolph and Sharp counties.
Donald Cooper with the Forestry Commision, said almost all area fire departments were called out at some point during the weekend to help with the fires. "We couldn't have done it without them. In some cases, they got the fires out before we got there," he said.
According to Phillips, a number of landowners were taking advantage of the nice weather to conduct burns on their property to clear away unwanted debris when winds shifted. "The sheer volume of burning going on increased the chances a fire could get out," Phillips said.
Fulton, Izard and Sharp are three of 30 counties with an increased wildfire hazard as a result of the January 2009 ice storm. Phillips said the amount of debris on the ground and limbs hanging in trees has made constructing fire lanes more difficult. "It can double or triple the time to get a line around the fire."
"We anticipate suppression issues over the next couple of years," Don McBride, Assistant State Forester-Protection said regarding the increased hazards in ice storm damaged areas.
AFC is using an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) grant awarded through the US Forest Service to address the increased wildfire risk by purchasing new dozers and staging two 802 single engine air tankers (SEATs) in northern Arkansas -- one in Harrison and one in Batesville. 802 single engine air tankers (SEATs) provided by Western Pilot Service can carry up to 800 gallons of water, and are used in addition to the efforts of firefighters on the ground to contain wildfires.
For more information about current wildfire conditions in Arkansas, visit www.arkfireinfo.org. To report a wildfire, call 1-800-468-8834.
For information about how ARRA funds are being used in Arkansas, visit the Arkansas Office of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act Web site at www.recovery.arkansas.gov.