Burn ban ignored; several fires set in Rule

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Although counties throughout Northwest Arkansas have been under burn bans because of extremely dry conditions, residents continued to burn, apparently unaware of the high fire danger.

In just the past week, firefighters have responded to numerous blazes that were set by individuals.

Green Forest firefighters battled half a dozen fires, all purposely set, including brush and grass fires started by individuals burning leaves and trash.

"Most people we talked to said they weren't aware of the burn ban," said Kenny Gibson, with the GFFD. "This is the longest we've had a burn ban, it's been continuous since Dec. 2."

Green Forest, along with other towns, have burn ban signs posted at all highway entrances to the city.

"It's hard for me to understand how they wouldn't know," Gibson commented.

Fire Chief Chris Trask said his department also responded to several arson fires in the Rule area on Jan. 5, fires that required the assistance of the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

"We believe they are arson and have asked the Sheriff's Office to investigate," he said. "We would appreciate it if people wouldn't burn during the ban."

The South Carroll County Fire Department fought four brush blazes this past week, along with a structure fire near Blue Hole.

In the Berryville area, the story is the same -- with people unaware of the high fire danger setting fires.

Besides garage and pickup blazes, Berryville firefighters responded to several more calls as a result of people burning brush and trash during the ban.

Eureka Springs firemen haven't been spared either. They responded to a report of a large glow in woods that required the assistance of forestry officials, and a grass fire near Hillspeak.

Until significant precipitation is received, the fire danger will remain high.

In addition to county-issued burn bans, the National Forest Service is prohibiting all campfires in the Ozark-St. Francis and Ouachita National Forests.

Violation of the ban could result in a fine up to $5,000 for individuals, up to $10,000 for organizations, and up to six months imprisonment, say Forest Service officials, who will be patrolling the forests.

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