Little Rock, AR -- With 200,000 acres of downed timber statewide from the December ice storms, disaster recovery officials warn that a major threat of wildfires exists in Arkansas. The Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) says the downed timber may block access to a fire, and the needles and leaves dry out quickly after a rain, allowing a fire to start easily and burn rapidly.
AFC officials said the spring is when the majority of fires occur. The Commission is gearing up for many different possibilities this spring fire season. The AFC purchased five larger bulldozers capable of pushing fire lanes through the downed timber and contracted to use single engine air tankers (SEATs).
On February 1 the AFC positioned four SEATs at Hot Springs Municipal Airport ready to drop water on a fire anywhere in the state they are needed. A twin-engine "Air Attack" plane coordinates operations between the firefighters on the ground and the tankers, which carry 500 gallons of water. Local fire departments across the state stand ready to replenish the air tankers' water at airports in the fire's vicinity.
AFC firefighters suppressed 69 fires that burned almost 90 acres the first six days of February, and the SEATs were used on eight of those fires, dropping water 14 times. The tankers will be available until April 30.