Following two weeks of intensely hot and dry conditions across the state, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry division has raised the wildfire risk level across all 75 counties, putting 12 counties at “high” risk and all of the remaining 63 at “moderate.” Local county judges have also instated burn bans in 53 counties, according to ADA officials.
“These 90 to 100 degree days with little or no rain have led to extremely dry conditions across the entire state,” said State Forester Joe Fox. “We are seeing an increase in the number of wildfires and their intensity, and that’s a trend that will continue until we see significant rainfall statewide.”
The Forestry Division maintains a map of all counties that are rated on four risk levels based on, drought status, weather forecasts, how likely fires are to start and how difficult they would be to contain. The map can be found here, and the four levels are as follows:
- Low: Fuels do not ignite easily. Weather conditions will lead to slow, easy to control fires.
- Moderate: Fire can start from accidental causes. May not become serious, but caution should be taken.
- High: Fires ignite easily and spread quickly. Unattended brush fires and campfires are likely to escape. Fires may become serious if not attacked early.
- Extreme: Fires start quickly, spread furiously, and burn intensely. Every fire started has the potential to become large. Expect extreme, erratic behavior.
Burn bans tend to prohibit any outdoor activity that involves an open flame, such as grilling, campfires and fireworks. But Robert Murphy, director of Emergency Services for the Forestry Division, also wants to remind people to take extra precautions around things like driving and operating machinery: “It’s important to remain cautious when driving through or working in dry grass,” Murphy said. “Trucks, ATVs, hay balers and other vehicles can easily start fires by causing sparks over dry grass.” For more information on burn bans in your county, visit arcounties.org/counties/.
If you see a fire, report it to the Forestry Division immediately by calling 1-800-468-8834. Lastly, do not fly drones over wildfires, as they make it too unsafe for those fighting the fires from performing detection flights or water drops.