Firefighters dispatched to controlled burn

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

For those who saw suspicious smoke near Leatherwood Bridge this weekend, Eureka Springs Fire Chief Nick Samac has a comforting message. The smoke was the result of a controlled burn.

Samac said the fire department was aware of the controlled burn, saying the property owner contacted Inspiration Point’s fire chief about the burn. When ESFD was informed of the controlled burn, Samac said, there was a bit of confusion.

“We immediately sent some of our volunteer firefighters, and they confirmed it was a controlled burn,” Samac said.

Controlled burns are common, he said. Samac explained that a controlled burn helps a property owner clean up their property by burning leaves and yard waste. He said there have been larger controlled burns near Onyx Cave Road. For those burns, he said, the Arkansas Forestry Commission helps make sure everything goes according to plan.

“They make sure there are natural fire breaks like gravel roads, no residences in the area that are going to be at risk, and they keep people present until [the fire] moves past that area,” Samac said.

Citizens may have a controlled burn within and outside city limits, Samac continued. He said residents who live in city limits are required to contact the fire department to receive a burn permit.

“We make sure people have their fire area away from any structures … that they have a rake and a hose, and somebody’s there for it,” Samac said. “If they’re in city limits, we’ll come out and inspect the site.”

Those who live outside city limits, he said, don’t need to get a permit for a controlled burn but do need to inform the fire department before the fire starts.

“We’ll notify dispatch. That way, as people call in and say, ‘We see smoke,’ we’re not dispatched all over the county,” Samac said.

The fire department doesn’t always encourage outdoor burning, he added. Samac said the humidity level and wind speed play a big factor in whether or not a controlled burn is appropriate. Sometimes, he said, the city or the county will have a burn ban prohibiting such fires. When it’s OK to have a controlled burn, Samac said, it’s important to let the fire department know what’s going on.

“Be safe and please notify the fire department,” he said. “It will help prevent us from responding to your property unnecessarily.”

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