BY MELANIE BUCK –
Crews responded to two different fires in the county on Monday, after a burn ban had been issued by Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison. The burn ban went into effect at 8 a.m. on Monday, February 8, 2016, until further notice. The ban was put into place due to low humidity, dead winter vegetation, and high winds that when combined cause a large increase in fire activity.
Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator James Reeves said the first fire was called in around 12:15 p.m. from the Board Camp area. The homeowner had been burning trash in a pit on his property on Sunday and had thought the fire was out. However, after returning home from a trip to town on Monday, the fire had apparently stoked back up and had blown into a nearby wooded area. Board Camp Volunteer Fired Department responded and received immediate mutual aid from Ink and Cherry Hill. “The fire was contained to three acres fairly quickly due to those three departments working together,” said Reeves.
He also explained that no water was used on the fire due to the proximity of the blaze and that hand tools were used by firefighters to extinguish the fire. Four standing dead trees were cut and laid down by firefighters to keep the fires from spreading more rapidly through embers in the wind.
The second fire was called into the Polk County Dispatch around 2:30 p.m. Monday afternoon by a logging crew on Polk 33 near Vandervoort. U.S. Forestry was called to fight the fire, where again, no water was used, only dozer work. After containing the fire late Monday night, it was determined that 88 acres were lost. “Part of what helped the fire from being any bigger was the fact that the logging crew came out and met forestry crews and led them to the location, otherwise, it could’ve taken a while longer to find it because of the remote location,” Reeves explained. He also said that aircraft was unable to drop water on the fire because of wind.
With gusty conditions continuing into Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued a fire weather watch and followed that at 11:15 a.m. with a Red Flag Warning that remains in effect for much of western Arkansas and all of Polk County.