BY MELANIE BUCK –
Polk County was plagued with fires over the weekend that kept volunteer fire departments hopping for much of Saturday and Sunday, January 30th and 31st. Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator James Reeves said conditions for fire activity are increased during this time of year due to several factors.
“With the nice warm weather we’re having, people like to get out and burn their brush piles, clear their fence rows, and burn leaves. They all start as ‘controlled burns’ but with the low humidity and dead vegetation mixed with wind, it doesn’t take much for the fire to get out of hand,” said Reeves.
The Dallas Valley area was the hardest hit over the weekend with three fires being fought in the area. Bee Mountain was said to be the largest fire, but it too was extinguished fairly quickly. Potter, Mena, and Acorn each had one fire, bringing the county total to seven blazes in little more than 24 hours. Reeves explained that if not for the rapid response of firefighters, the flames could’ve caused more property damage and homes could have been lost.
“February to April is our biggest fire season. We have light rain, low humidity, and all the dead vegetation from winter and it offers good conditions for a fire to escape,” said Reeves. As a rule of thumb, Reeves said that you should always check the weather before starting a burn. Low winds and more than 30% humidity are better conditions to burn in and each large burn should be called in to the Polk County Sheriff’s Department at 394-2511. Also, never leave a fire unattended. Completely extinguish the fire by dousing it with water and stirring the ashes until cold; discard cigarettes, matches, and smoking materials in appropriate places. Be certain to completely extinguish cigarettes before disposing of them; and keep a shovel, water, and fire retardant nearby to keep fires in check. Remove all flammables from the yard when burning.
Citizens are also reminded that if they begin a burn and it gets out of control, they could be held liable for any property damage that occurs as a result, whether it be private land or state and federal land. All fire laws are regulated and enforced by the state.