Weather conditions just right for wildfires

Thursday, April 8, 2010

High winds and dry conditions have prompted fire weather watches for 45 counties in Arkansas and foresters are urging Arkansans to be careful.

The National Weather Service issued fire weather watches for Arkansas, Baxter, Boone, Bradley, Calhoun, Clark, Cleburne, Cleveland, Conway, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Faulkner, Fulton, Garland, Grant, Hot Spring, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Lincoln, Logan, Lonoke, Marion, Monroe, Montgomery, Newton, Ouachita, Perry, Pike, Polk, Pope, Prairie, Pulaski, Saline, Scott, Searcy, Sharp, Stone, Van Buren, White, Woodruff and Yell.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission said the wildfire danger was high for Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Pope, Sebastian, Scott and Yell counties and moderate for the rest of the state.

"In Arkansas, while wildfires may occur at any time, we really have two fire seasons: springtime when the landscape is greening up, and again in the late summer and early fall when the summer heat has dried out vegetation," said Tamara Walkingstick, associate center director for forest resources for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

When the conditions are right, it doesn't take much to start a wildfire: a cigarette flicked out of a car window, application of truck brakes, lawnmower blade sparking on a rock, a hot exhaust pipe or a stray ember from a grill or trash fire can all turn into something much larger.

"Mistakes can happen in a moment and the fire can get away from you in a moment," Walkingstick said.

Arkansas Forestry Commission crews were working last Thursday to contain a 40-acre fire northwest of Violet Hill in Izard County.

To be prepared, homeowners should:

* Check with the Arkansas Forestry Commission or NOAA forecast for fire weather watches and red flag days:, or

* Call the Arkansas Forestry Commission dispatch if attempting a prescribed burn.

* Use common sense around the house: keep a fire extinguisher orabundant water nearby when grilling, burning leaves, thatch or yard waste.

Homeowners surrounded by forest should become familiar with the fire safety guidelines found at

To report a wildfire, call the Arkansas Forestry Commission DispatchCenter at 1-800-468-8834, or call 911.

For more information on forestry, visit, or contact your county extension agent.

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