Who's to blame for recent wildfires?

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - With the weather being so dry and windy, why do so few counties have burn bans in effect?

According to the Arkansas Forestry Commission, up to 17 wildfires were worked Wednesday and more calls continue to come in Thursday. Small fires were reported in Cleburne, Fulton, Baxter and Izard counties.

Are these fires caused by lack of bans or  people burning under poor conditions? Independence County Judge Robert Griffin says "Many times it is a matter of a lack of awareness of exactly how hazardous the situation can be."

Independence County is one of many counties that has not yet been issued a burn ban.

Griffin, " I have been in communication with some of the fire chiefs to see how they felt about whether we need to instigate a burn ban or not. We are within a couple of days of declaring here if we do not get a change in precipitation."

Judge Griffin says they have fairly good soil moisture but they need some more rain and for the winds to die down. "Those" he says "really are one of the biggest  spreaders of fire."

One group who is acutely aware of the conditions, are the Arkansas Forestry Commission Crews who have been battling these fires in the hills.  Kenny Smothers, County Forester for Independence and Izard County said his rangers have been very busy.

Smothers, "We've had several fires here in Independence County and yesterday I was up in Izard County assisting there."

2 10-Wheeler trucks, each hauling a bulldozer wait the calls that crews assured me would start coming in as the day waned. In the distance you could hear a spotter plane circling and shortly the radio began calling for the crews. One truck rolled out heading South of the station toward Cave Creek Road.

Smothers says their fires start for a couple of main reasons. "Our causes we've been determined have been caused by arson as well as trash burning and someone not watching the fire." He says he leaves the decisions on burn bans up to the judges.

Up on Coon Lane  we came across a large burned area. It was still smoldering and showing the marks of a fire dozer and plow. Alesia Qualls stopped by and told us this fire burned on Tuesday.

Qualls, "I went out I guess it was Tuesday Morning and there wasn't nothing burning and when I came in Tuesday afternoon it was on fire."

So would more burn bans help? It's honestly hard to say. Both the Judge and Forestry officials are hoping for a good soaking rain and for people to not let their little fires turn into big ones.

To avoid causing a wildfire in your area, check the Arkansas Fire information website for burn ban listings and wildfire dangers before burning any trash or leaves.

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