Dustin Krigbaum, a firefighter with the Arkansas Forestry Commission in Logan County, is in a much better mood this year than last.
That’s because when it comes to his job, this has been a much better year.
Last week, Krigbaum said he was called out to fight an estimated 70 wildfires in 2012. This year, he’s been called out four times.
The difference is rain. The area has gotten average to slightly above average rainfall. Last year, the area suffered through a severe drought that lasted into December.
"When I say 70 fires last year, that’s just fires we were called out to help fight," Krigbaum said last week. "Local volunteer fire departments may have responded to more but didn’t need our help."
In some respects, this year and last are alike, Krigbaum said. Alike in that they are both abnormal years.
"In a normal year, we’ll fight maybe 25 to 30 fires," he said. "We haven’t had what I’d call a normal year for the last five years. It’s either been abnormally wet or abnormally dry."
In another departure from last year, the county has not been under a burn ban so far this year, Krigbaum said.
"Of course, the year isn’t over, either," he said.
That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been dry this year. In fact, according to the Drought Monitor map for Logan County, the eastern part of the county is classified as abnormally dry.
"So far this year, every time it has started to get dry, we’d get a substantial rain," Krigbaum said.
And it’s starting to get dry again. Krigbaum said the area needs the rain predicted to fall this week. There was a 40 percent chance of rain Monday, a 20 percent chance Tuesday through Thursday and a 30 percent chance Friday, according to the weather forecast.
Another thing that’s much improved from last year is the size of the fires, Krigbaum said.
"It wasn’t just the number of fires last year that was unusual. It was the size," Krigbaum said. "The average fire last year burned 15 to 20 acres. Usually a fire will burn three to five acres. Last year was the worst I’ve ever seen for fires in Logan County and I’ve been with the Forestry Commission for seven years."
The largest fire last year was in July on Hog Thief Valley Road. The fire burned 330 acres and firefighters fought it for four days. So far this year, the largest fire burned two acres, Krigbaum said.
Krigbaum said right now, he’d consider the fire danger in Logan County as moderate.
"Parts of the county are dry and we need rain," he said. "In Arkansas, you need a substantial rain about every three weeks or you’re going to get wildfires."