Mena, Ark. – Icy roads and freezing rain present challenges to search efforts today. The Incident Command Post in Mena is working to have resources by land and air ready this afternoon during a possible weather break. More than 1,200 miles were covered by air yesterday, and 7,200 acres traveled by foot. The search area itself began as a possible 100 square mile space, however, grew to a 756 square mile space as patterns were studied more closely about Jake’s last possible location.
Search parties are growing as officials re-group on strategy. As weather allows, sub-divisions of Incident Command will be set up by law enforcement in Montgomery and Polk County, forestry officials with the AFC and US Forest Service, and SAR-trained search parties. By breaking search teams into these divisions, more people can be involved in searching, with a continued tight accountability system in place to ensure everyone’s safety in such high-risk terrain. Aggressive air efforts will complement new ground strategy, as weather allows.
Every resource is being used to determine what factors could have contributed to Jake’s possible change in flight route on Friday- so that search efforts can be focused there. The AFC has a fleet of 16 planes, including the plane that Jake was flying on Friday. Fourteen of these planes are single-engine aircraft, meant for detection flights. Detection flights travel pre-determined routes and report back to AFC Central Dispatch in Malvern with possible wildfires spotted on the ground. Weather conditions for take-off are monitored continuously, every day, according to a Terminal Area Forecast – in terms of many factors including ceiling and visibility, wind velocity, and approaching weather patterns like front systems. These conditions change constantly and can be unique by region. The 24-hour Central Dispatch Center at Malvern is a constant resource for updated weather forecast information.
The Incident Command structure in Mena continues as a Unified Command effort with the following partners involved: statewide Arkansas Forestry Commission crews, U.S. Forest Service, Polk and Montgomery Law Enforcement, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas State Police, Emergency Management crews from Polk and Montgomery County, local volunteer fire departments, the National Weather Service, and the North Little Rock Police Department.