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Burn bans expanding in Arkansas amid hot, dry conditions

2022-07-15-burn_bans_map.jpg
Arkansas Department of Agriculture
A map showing Arkansas counties with burn bans as of Friday. Counties in red have issued burn bans.

Arkansas is seeing an increasing number of burn bans in response to dry conditions and hot temperatures. Bans on burning are in effect in 55 of Arkansas' 75 counties, as of Friday.

Joe Fox, a 50-year veteran of the Forestry Division of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, says the burn bans help keep people in the state safe.

“Anything with an open flame is not allowed during a burn ban,” Fix said. “The reason for that is that the fuels in the pasture and the forest are so dry, that any little spark they can take off.”

The bans prohibits people in the counties from creating any kind of fire, including burning trash or debris.

Fox says the decision to enact a burn ban is made by county judges who base their decision on a series of environmental factors. One factor is the Keetch-Byram Drought Index. The national index determines the potential conditions for forest fire and measures heat on a 0 to 800 scale. 0 is borderline flood conditions while 800 is extreme drought. Arkansas has eight weather stations across the state.

“Of those eight, two of them were in the 700s and five of them were in the 600,” he said. “One in south Arkansas was in the 300s.”

South Arkansas saw the most rain over the last week, according to the National Weather Service. The forecast for the state only calls for a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms Saturday night through Monday. The rest of next week is expected to by dry and hot with high temperatures starting Tuesday expected to at or above 100 in central Arkansas.

People who do not honor burn bans could face fines depending on decisions made by local country sheriff’s departments.

Fox says his office sometimes gets calls from citizens who notice smoke. In those cases, the Forestry Division contacts local fire departments to investigate and if a fire is present, put it out.

“Worst-case scenario is someone burning debris out in the small pasture,” Fox said. “While wind comes up and blows sparks in the grass, the wind is aimed at their house, starts a grass fire that is aimed at their house, starts a grass fire that consumes their house.”

Josie Lenora is a news anchor and reporter for UA Little Rock Public Radio. She grew up listening to KUAR and NPR News and says she is thrilled to give back to an organization she loves. Josie first interned in the fall of 2021 assisting in production for KUAR and KLRE, then in spring of 2022 spent a semester interning as a new anchor before joining the staff.