Arkansas Wildfires Brought Under Control

JANUARY 3, 2006 - Posted at 7:52 a.m. CST

RUSH, AR - In northern Arkansas, federal park officials are investigating two large fires in the Buffalo National River wilderness that occupied firefighters for days.  They suspect the fires started accidentally or intentionally, but not from natural causes.

One of the two fires that started over the weekend was largely contained yesterday; the other has been brought under control.  Fire crews battled the 1,570-acre blaze northwest of rural Cozahome in the lower district of the Buffalo National River wilderness area.

The fire, discovered near the historic mining town of Rush days ago, was 75 percent contained.  It threatened five structures on federal land and private property in Cozahome in Searcy County.  Smoke was expected to affect residents of Marion, Baxter, Searcy, and Stone counties.

Forty acres east of Richland Valley in Searcy County also burned Saturday, but no structures were threatened and the fire was under control by yesterday.

Meanwhile, 54 of Arkansas' 75 counties are now under burn bans, including Baxter, Independence, Jackson, Stone, White and Woodruff counties in Region 8.

Fire officials say there were 30 wildfires in Arkansas on the first day of 2006.  Typically, the state has that many fires in two weeks, but the fire threat now is anything but typical.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)