Arkansas Forestry Commission Says More Than 1,200 Acres Burned By 51 Blazes

LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- Spring is more lion-like than lamb-gentle in Arkansas' forests when the woods are dry. The Arkansas Forestry Commission reported 51 fires that burned more than 1,200 acres of forest and grass lands over the weekend.

Though wildfires occur in every month, they are most common in the spring and late summer, with March and April seeing the majority of wildfire activity.

According to the commission's website, there were a total of 781 fires during March and April in 2003, accounting for more than 16,000 of the total 22,945 acres that burned that year.

Despite the number of fires over the weekend, there are no burn bans in effect in Arkansas right now, but there is a ''moderate wildfire danger'' for 16 counties in the state.

Don McBride, fire chief for the commission, said a moderate wildfire danger indicates ''a slightly elevated risk of a fire occuring, but not a fast-moving fire.''

McBride said there had been 151 fires in Arkansas since the first of the year, slightly below the average. ''We're ahead in rainfall this year, so there is plenty of moisture to work with,'' he said.

The weather plays a significant role during the wildfire season, and the ''prognosis is good,'' for this year. according to John Lewis, a senior meteorologist for the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.

Lewis said that, although there is not a lot of moisture in fronts currently approaching Arkansas from the northwest, the latest long-term outlook shows that Arkansas will be at or above normal precipitation for March, April and May.

Forestry Commission spokesman Mark Reed said March and April see the most fires because of spring cleaning. ''People are cleaning up (and burning trash) and not being real careful,'' he said.

Debris burning, which is what the commission calls burning leaves and trash piles, ''is one of the highest causes of wildfires in Arkansas,'' Reed said.

To prevent such fires, he said, ''don't burn on windy days, stay with your fire, have precautionary rakes and water hoses there and just use a lot common sense.''