Mt. IDA, Ark. — Federal, State and local fire agencies attended the Caddo-Womble Ranger District’s 37th Annual Fire School and Cooperators Meeting held at the Mountain Harbor Resort in Mt. Ida, Ark., Feb., 26.
The meeting this year was led by Caddo-Womble’s District Fire Management Officer, Robert Nix.
Shalonda Guy, the Caddo-Womble district ranger and Bill Barnes, owner of Mountain Harbor Resort and Joplin Volunteer Fire department’s chief welcomed the attendees which included members of local fire departments, Arkansas Department of Agriculture Forestry Division, Army Corps of Engineers and The Nature Conservancy
Nix and Justus Beggs, the assistant fire management officer provided updates on activities that occurred on the district in 2019, including four wildfires totaling 17 acres. Information was also provided on the number and location of prescribed burns planned for this year.
Ich Stewart, Ouachita National Forest’s assistant fire management officer spoke about how the meetings improve the fire community’s ability to work better as a team by allowing them to work out policies between them.
One of the topics discussed during the meeting involved working on better communication between the Forest Service, state and local fire personnel during wildfires.
“As a result, the fire chiefs are scheduling a communication plan meeting to insure all parties have a shared tactical frequency and a shared air to ground frequency,” Stewart said.
In coordination with Montgomery County Emergency Manager, Jerry Elizandro, the meeting with fire chiefs has been scheduled for Mar. 20 at the Joplin Fire Department.
Other topics included the number of wildfires that occurred in the state during 2009.
Barnes said that the approximately 1,000 volunteer fire departments around the state contributed to reduction of wildfires.
According to Robert Murphy, district 1 ranger, Arkansas Department of Agriculture Forestry Division, Arkansas had 585 wildfires last year, which he said is the lowest in the state’s history.
Joseph Goudsward, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Little Rock, Ark., gave a presentation on the weather during 2019 and expectations for 2020. According to Goudsward, in 2019 the state was 15 inches above normal, making it the seventh wettest year since 1895 when records began.
The school and meeting ended with a safety brief on helicopter safety by Bjorn Burgeson, Ouachita National Forest helitack manager.
“Fire School is an important meeting to bring the Forest Service and cooperators together to discuss standard operating procedures, emergency operations, and collaborated projects,” Nix said. “The face-to-face meeting is good way to build rapport among cooperators and the Forest Service as well as strengthen our relationships within the community.”
Justus Beggs, Ouachita National Forest assistant fire management officer goes over a map of the Caddo-Womble Ranger District’s planned prescribed burn locations during the district’s 37th Annual Fire School and Cooperators Meeting held at the Mountain Harbor Resort in Mt. Ida, Ark., Feb., 26. See story and photo on page 5. Submited photos.