Arkansas' firefighting changing with times
LITTLE ROCK (AP) - The Arkansas Forestry Commission once had
more help from corporate timberland owners to fight fires. But
private personnel and equipment have dropped off in recent years
and other developments have changed how the state fights fires.
Currently, Arkansas is in a drought. The last quarter of 2005
was the state's driest on record and the state had 2,216 fires that
burned 34,396 acres last year, not an unusually large number. But
the dry conditions could turn 2006 into a banner year for fires.
As of Jan. 16, more acres had burned - 9,016 - than during all
of the previous 10 Januarys.
The forestry commission currently has 98 fire plows, 15
fire-detection planes and a contract fleet of four firefighting air
tankers. Western Pilot Service of Phoenix provides the state with
year-round, standby firefighting protection.
Seventeen years ago, the commission also could count on help
from another 65 fire plows and a helicopter from the
International Paper Co., which owns 690,000 acres of Arkansas
timberland, no longer operates firefighting equipment. Instead, it
relies on the forestry commission. Spokeswoman Amy Sawyer says that
like all private timberland owners, International Paper pays an
annual forest-fire-protection tax of 15 cents per acre.
El Dorado-based Deltic Timber Corp., which owns almost 429,000
acres of Arkansas timberland, fights fires on its property, says
Tim Zorsch, general manager of woodlands. Deltic has seven crawler
tractors and about 20 foresters and technicians who are prepared to
"We don't wait for the state. If we have fire on our land,
we're going to it," Zorsch says.
Weyerhaeuser Co., which owns 727,000 acres of Arkansas
timberland, has bulldozers and a helicopter to fight forest fires,
says Rhonda Hunter, the company's Arkansas and Oklahoma timberlands
manager. Also, the company maintains ponds to make sure that it has
water nearby to fight fires.
University of Georgia professor Michael Clutter says the trend
among forest-products companies is to sell land to timber
investment management organizations. Clutter says the trend is not
as evident in Arkansas, but he cites International Paper's
announcement last summer that it might sell or spin off some or all
of its Arkansas timberland.
When forest-products companies sell timberland, the land often
goes to several owners, many of whom begin developing the land,
introducing greater opportunities for fires to break out, says Don
Artley, national fire director for the National Association of
"You have to go in and fight the fire where it is because
you're trying to protect all these improvements," Artley says.
Suburban sprawl has taken over thousands of formerly forested
lands near Little Rock and Hot Springs and throughout Northwest
In response, the forestry commission participates in FireWise,
an effort among government agencies and homeowners to promote fire
safety. Arkansas leads the nation in the number of certified
The U.S. Forest Service is Arkansas' largest landowner with 2.6
million acres. The federal agency has 18 dozers, 18 "brush
trucks" and four heavy air tankers in Arkansas and can put from
200 to 500 firefighters into service.
Traditionally, the Forest Service has tried to reach fires
quickly and control them while they are still small. But that
policy has shifted to a renewed emphasis on firefighter safety and
prescribed, or controlled, burns as a way to reduce the risk of
Arkansas is now a leader in prescribed burns, says Scott Simon,
state director of The Nature Conservancy.
"State agencies and the national forests prescribe burn in
excess of 200,000 acres a year with the support of the conservation
community," he says.
Advances in communication equipment, weather forecasting and
satellite technology have also changed firefighting in the state.
Planes have replaced fire towers as detection tools. The forestry
commission uses a computer-aided dispatch system at Malvern that
pinpoints the location of wildfires, enabling dispatchers to
promptly deploy crews. The Geographic Information System provides
maps of highways, vegetation type and land ownership, aerial
photographs, and information on airports and fire departments.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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Thread: Arkansas Wildfire News
01-23-2006, 04:45 AM #1
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01-23-2006, 02:24 PM #2firefighter7160Firehouse.com Guest
Im in Arkansas...
This was in the paper here yeasterday. This state has had it coming for years. The volly's around here dont get training on fighting wildland fire's. They get a 8 hour class, and thats it. No hands on training. Most fire's are small, but the voll. dept's cant get at the fire. Our they just wait for forestry to get there. My dept. is the same. But after this year it wont be. Training Training Training. Thats all were doing now. We can not wait for forestry to show up. We have the tools, and the manpower, so we need to get out there and fight these fire's. I will say it has been a crazy year. Dry and hot. But its raining today. Hope to get 2 inchs. So just let this year be over. And start training for next year.
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