The Arkansas Forestry Commission is expecting a busy wildfire season this year, according to a new release issued in early January. Winter wildfire season is typically February to April.
Wildfire season didn’t wait until February before starting in Logan County, according to Dustin Krigbaum of the Forestry Commission’s office in Paris. There have been four wildfires in the county through the end of last week, Krigbaum said. Two of them took place last week. One of those burned 65 acres near Gray Rock and totally destroyed an unoccupied home. The fire was started by someone burning debris outdoors, Krigbaum said.
“No one seems to know who was doing the burning,” Krigbaum said last week.
If anyone has information about the fire, they should call Krigbaum at 963-1475.
Krigbaum said four fire departments were dispatched to the fire.
“It was a pretty big fire and it spread rapidly, due to low humidity and high winds,” Krigbaum said. “Also, there was a drone flying in the area and that causes us to stop any attack on the fire from the air. We didn’t call in an air attack on that fire but sometimes we have a spotter plane in the air and a drone will stop that.”
The 2018 wildfire outlook, provided by the National Interagency Coordination Center, predicts higher than normal Arkansas wildfire activity from February to April in Northwest Arkansas counties based on predicted drought conditions and forecasts for dry air over the region, according to the Forestry Service news release.
In 2017, 1,566 wildfires burned 27,549 acres in Arkansas. This is the highest wildfire frequency year since 2012 when 2,148 wildfires burned 34,434 acres. Overall, wildfires were larger in 2017 with an average size of 17.6 acres compared to a 10-year average of 15.5 acres. The highest wildfire frequency month was November when 316 wildfires burned 5,858 acres.
“2017 has been an active wildfire year, which points to the fact that we have a lot of woody debris on our forest floor,” says State Forester Joe Fox. “With plenty of fuel, an uncertain drought outlook, and wildfires trending larger in size, Arkansans can expect the possibility of an active wildfire season beginning soon. Wildfire danger can take place anytime when we have dry fuels, low humidity, and moderate wind. Forestry crews remain highly trained and well equipped. Residents should always be mindful of safe burning, but should use added caution in the coming year.”
The primary causes of Arkansas wildfires continue to be arson and unintentional wildfires caused by routine outdoor burning including the burning of trash, grass and leaves. Other causes of Arkansas wildfires include: lightning strikes, children playing with matches, cigarettes, equipment, and campfires.
“Winter is wildfire season,” Krigbaum said. “I think it’s going to be very busy, especially if we don’t get more rain. It’ll be day to day depending on the humidity. If humidity is high, you won’t see much. If it’s low, things could get very busy.”