Arkansas Fires Pose Threat to Budget
Drought conditions have made this one of the worst summers for fires, but it could soon put a strain on the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s budget.
“You’ve got the added expense of fuel,” said Lou Koch with the Arkansas Forestry Commission. “You’ve got the added expense of maintenance.”
The Arkansas Forestry Commission in Little Rock says last summer’s fire outbreak put a strain on their budget, but statewide this year, they’ve seen nearly five times the amount of fires.
“This year we had a wet early spring,” said Koch. “The moisture stopped early and we started getting the higher temperatures.”
The commission says it’s typical to see about 121 fires per 1,400 acres in July. This year, Arkansas is already at 325 fires per 6,000 acres, and there’s not much relief in sight with August typically being the driest month.
“As dry as it is now, just the hot engine and exhaust could become a problem,” said Joe Shipman with the Arkansas Highway Department.
A highway department mower sparked a fire in Ola Wednesday. It spread over 1,400 acres and evacuated the entire town. It was 100 percent contained, but fire fighters are still monitoring the area.
Shipman says his crews will continue to mow more than 15,000 acres along the side of the roads, but they’re using caution.
“We have fire extinguishers on our passenger vehicles and some of the supervisors have chosen to put those on the tractors this year because of the dry conditions,” said Shipman.
The forestry commission says they’ll have to wait for their fiscal year to end in September to determine how much the fire outbreak affected their budget.