Little Rock, AR -- Assistant State Forester Don McBride recently met with representatives of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stating, "Arkansas has the potential to have one of the worst fire seasons in its history. With the massive amount of fuel on the ground, wildfires will burn extremely hot and fast and be difficult to control and contain."
McBride met with ADEM and FEMA personnel in an effort to secure assistance with the states air tanker program, fire prevention campaign, satellite imagery, and financial help to purchase larger JD-650 or equivalent dozers.
McBride was not optimistic that Arkansas would escape the spring and summer wildfire season without incident. He was seeking assistance in purchasing additional equipment so the Arkansas Forestry Commission could effectively fight small wildfires before they get out of control and become disasters.
Kelly Robbins, executive vice president of the Arkansas Forestry Association, a group of 1,300 members from all facets of the timber and forest sector, feels state residents should be especially aware of the potential for wildfires due to the increased fire fuel on forest floors. "An alarming statistic from the National Forest Service indicates the fire fuel on the floor of the Ouachita National Forest has increased from 4 tons per acre to 40 tons per acre. Many of our association members indicate that the figure jumps to between 50 and 75 tons per acre in other areas of the state," concluded Robbins.
Robbins cautioned residents to be mindful of five specific areas that have the potential to cause widespread damage to Arkansas forest and timberlands.
- A campfire that is not completely extinguished
- Smoking material that is carelessly discarded
- Lightning strikes
- Carelessness on the part of individuals with fire producing materials
Jim Grant, public information spokesperson for the Arkansas Forestry Commission, advised anyone observing a wildfire call 800-468-8834, 24-hours a day to report all fire emergencies.