Much of State Gets Soaking Rain, Reducing Fire Dangers

JANUARY 23, 2006 - Posted at 7:55 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A spokeswoman for the Arkansas Forestry Commission says the weekend's steady rains have reduced fire danger in much of the state.  But weather forecasters say the rainfall has barely made a dent in the drought that has plagued the state since last last year.

Tonja Kelly is an investigator and fire information officer for the Forestry Commission.  She said the northwestern corner of the state got only a few light showers over the weekend, and burn bans there are likely to remain in effect until a more general, soaking rain falls in the area.

A map of burn bans on the Commission's Web site showed 29 counties still had them in effect last night, mostly in western Arkansas, from north to south.  But Kelly said that didn't accurately reflect the situation across the state, because no one is in the office of county judges on Sunday, to take official note of a change in conditions.

She said, however, that the Forestry Commission received no reports of any wildfires burning in the state yesterday.  She said the state would need several nice rains before it will be out of danger.

That assessment was echoed by Lance Pyle, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's state office at North Little Rock.  He said the weekend rains will help a little bit, but certainly won't alleviate the drought completely.  He said the state is many inches of rain below normal still, and it would take many days of rain like this just to catch up.

A map on the National Weather Service Web site showed southern Arkansas received the heaviest rain Saturday night and into Sunday.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)