With the unseasonably warm temperatures, many area residents took the opportunity to burn and clean their yards. But the high winds that whipped up caused numerous wild fires in the county as a result. In Sharp County, there were several fires on March 23 and 24 that required nearly every department in the county to respond. The most notable was one near Ash Flat that is believed to have been set by someone on a four wheeler, according to Ash Flat Fire Chief Stacy Horton.
The fire began in the early afternoon near Dry Bone Road, south of Ash Flat. Firefighters responded to the brush fire that eventually burned 486 acres of land between Dry Bone Road and Good Earth Pottery Road, nearly a mile away. With continually shifting winds, the blaze burned through the woods for over a mile.
Crews with the Ash Flat Fire Department began fighting the worst of the blaze just after 6 p.m., when it came out of the woods and quickly spread into a sage grass field just off Hwy. 62/412. They had previously been working on Dry Bone Road for hours, attempting to insure the fire did not spread and jump a nearby road to where homes were located. Horton and the firefighters with his department were paged to the corner of Good Earth Pottery Road around 6 p.m. Within seconds, the fire, which for hours had remained in the wooded areas out of the reach of fire trucks, very quickly made its ugly appearance.
Firefighters Rob Simers, Jared Allen, Marty Goodwin and Adam Bates sprang into action in the department's brush truck and went out into near blackout conditions to begin to contain the flame that was quickly moving toward a nearby home. With on the ground assistance from Horton, Grace Richeson, Larry Fowler, Corey Bobo and Alan Fulgham, the group quickly refilled the trucks as they emptied their water contents again and again. The fire was new firefighter Bobo's first fire and Horton said he stayed with the group until the end. Arkansas Forestry Commission planes from Batesville and Hot Springs also aided the department with two drops to help calm the massive blaze.
As the sun began to go down, the orange glow of the fire was mimicked by the sun lowering in the sky. About the time the crew thought the fire was contained, darkness fell and things went from bad to worse, as other members of the department joined in the attempt to contain the wild fire.
Spring River Paramedic Ambulance Service was on the scene for hours in case of an emergency. Nearly eight hours after the initial call, the tired crew was able to return to the Ash Flat Station.
On March 24, Sharp County Judge Larry Brown placed the county under a burn ban. As suddenly as the fires came, so too did torrential downpours of rain, sleet and snow, coupled with thunder and lightening on March 25.
Area fire departments warn of the dangers of this type of fire and discourage burning during windy dry conditions.