Extremely dry conditions pose problems in Region 8

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) – A Red Flag Warning has been issued for much of Missouri and the extreme tip of Mississippi County is under extreme drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The agency suggested Monday that northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri are among several areas nationwide under extreme drought conditions. According to the Blytheville Fire Department, the city has worked several structure and wildfires in the last few weeks.

"Substantial rains. It's probably been a matter of just off the top of my head, somewhere around 2 and a half months. We did get a slight rain a couple weeks back, but it really was no benefit to us whatsoever," said Mike Carney, Assistant Fire Chief with the Blytheville Fire Department. "People flipping cigarettes have a whole lot to do with our run volume, we've noticed it up and down the interstate, and the interstate fires are grass fire."

Carney said the city is investigating several fires that started over the weekend and overnight Sunday. He said dry conditions have been hurting firefighters.

"It's very noticeable, just going around town when the winds are up, the dust coming off the fields and things of that nature. It's obvious that things are very dry," said Carney.

Carney said the majority of fires associated with dry conditions have been from wildfires, and the city isn't equipped to handle large fires.

"We just don't have the equipment to get out in the middle of that field. If we have the field roads, to a certain extent we can maneuver down to them, but more times than not if we have something out in a big field, we have no means to get to it in a safe manner," said Carney. "As far as getting that fire truck or pumper down there, in a lot of cases it's just not going to happen."

The Gosnell Fire Department told Region 8 News Monday it also has worked plenty of fires. Over the weekend, fire crews worked a fire near the northern part of town.

"Last night, we responded to a brush fire along State Line Ditch north of our city limits," said Bobby Trump with the Gosnell Fire Department. "People don't realize that, that they may be burning something in their yard and they realize it's starting to spread out, they go get their garden hose and before they can get back, their entire yard is on fire."

Trump said he's never seen it so dry in places.

"Right now, as dry as it has been, it's not just now but with the massive heat wave we had lately, the dry air just dries the grass out even quicker than not having rain on it, and it's to the point now where you can start a fire and it'd spread 10 feet every 30 seconds," said Trump. "You can go anywhere on these county roads and we have some major drainage ditches that are just bone dry, and I haven't seen those ditches dry and I've been living here in this area since 1986, and I've never seen those ditches dry."

Mississippi County is under a burn ban until the area gets a substantial rain. To see if you're in a county with a burn ban in place, click here.

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