Temperatures Making Fires More Likely

WALNUT RIDGE, AR--The heat is posing other dangers other than the obvious health concerns. Combine the intense heat with the lack of rain and you have the perfect recipe for fire.

To prevent the situation from getting worse several burn bans are being issued.

Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Alan Haskins has the brush fire truck geared up, but he is looking to fight fires in a different way, with a burn ban.

"It's like the old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Haskins.

When conditions are this dry just about anything will help to start a blaze including cigarette butts. On one stretch of highway in Walnut Ridge we found more than 20 cigarette butts in a span of less than 20 feet. Each one with the ability to start the next blaze.

"Without thinking people can throw one out and it can just take off because the grass is at its driest right now. When it's this dry it is like gun powder, it can take off in a matter of seconds," said Haskins.

Brown grass and brush are easily combustible; however a surprising fire started by a cigarette made the decision easy for Haskins.

"We had a grass fire the other day that was actually burning green grass and it was burning fairly quick and fairly fast and we decided if that kind of grass is burning, we need to stop it before it gets any worse," said Haskins.

While the green grass fire was the tipping point, Haskins says there are a number of factors that go into the decision.

"We look at the humidity and the weather conditions. How dry it is, how long it has been since we have had rain, the moisture in the ground and the grass and stuff like that," said Haskins.

He says the burn ban will remain in effect until the area receives substantial rain and with the current forecast it looks like it will continue at least through August.

In addition to Walnut Ridge, the city of Kennett, Sharp, Greene, and Randolph counties have all issued burn bans. The ban is not just a suggestion, it's the law. If you are caught with a controlled burn you can be fined.