Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe will travel to Ola Thursday afternoon to survey the
damage from a wildfire that burned about 1,400 acres Wednesday.
The governor will also visit the command center near the Danville Airport and thank the more than 175 firefighters and emergency workers who responded the fire, according to a statement from his office. He will then tour the fire lines along Highway 10.
Firefighters are concerned that wind could pick up burning embers and cause the fire to spread again, according to Capt. John M. Foster, Jr. with the Yell County Sheriff’s Department. He says emergency workers and firefighters will remain in the area to respond to any outbreaks.
The Arkansas Forestry Service will also provide a 20 man hand crew, three doziers and a helicopter Thursday.
The mandatory evacuation was lifted early Thursday morning, but residents are asked to stay away from the fire line on the south side of Highway 10.
“Emergency crews and equipment will most likely need to access those areas quickly and do not need to be delayed by onlookers and unnecessary traffic,” Capt. Foster said in an email.
Capt. Foster also says there will be a cooling shelter open at the Danville First Baptist Church for residents that may need it.
The fire, which began around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday on State Highway 7 near of Ola, was contained around 3 a.m. Thursday, Capt. Foster says. The fire is believed to have started from sparks from a mower cutting grass on the shoulder of the highway.
Sheriff Bill Gilkey says two vacant homes and a barn had fire damage.
Residents of Ola and those living on Highway 10 east of the town were evacuated, as deputies went door-to-door warning them. They were asked to go to the temporary shelters at Two Rivers High School and Gym just east of Plainview.
The American Red Cross estimates between 40 and 50 families showed up at the shelter.
Tommy Jackson with the county’s emergency management office says the evacuation affected about 1,000 people.
People watched as a thick cloud of smoke crept dangerously close to homes.
“It’s scary. I just don’t know which way it’s gonna go. I don’t know of it’s gonna go towards my house. I mean it’s right there,” said Ashley Machado, an evacuee.
Six fire departments, the Arkansas Forestry Service and the US Forest Service were sent to help with the fire. Two dozers, two pumper trucks and a 20-person hand crew were also provided by the US Forest Service.
Ola is located approximately 44 miles east of Booneville on Highway 10.
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