Sparks can be potential danger for wildfires, experts say


LITTLE ROCK — With the wildfire danger moderate to high statewide, mowing the lawn in dry grass could prove dangerous — at least until a soaking rain, said Tamara Walkingstick, associate director of the Forest Resources Center of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

On Tuesday the Arkansas Forestry Commission reported 10 wildfires on 58 acres. As of Wednesday morning, fire danger was high in Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Chicot, Clark, Cleveland, Columbia, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Garland, Hempstead, Hot Spring, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lincoln, Miller, Nevada, Ouachita, Union, Grant, and Saline counties. The danger was moderate elsewhere. Burn bans were in place in 31 counties. (See: www.arkfireinfo.org)

The National Weather Service in Little Rock forecast called for a 40 percent chance of rain Thursday night, rising to 70 percent Friday.

“Until that rain falls, everyone needs to be aware that the smallest spark can turn acres of grass and woodlands into ash,” she said. “All it takes is for a mower blade or bushhogger to strike a spark from a stone on the ground and the dry vegetation will catch fire quickly.”

The dry summer has also prompted some trees to shed, adding to the potential wildfire fuel, Walkingstick said.

Other potential ignition sources include:

• Hot exhaust pipes on vehicles parked on tall grass

• Cigarettes tossed from car windows

• Sparks from worn bearings or brakes

• Barbecue grills

“People who go in the woods, whether scouting ahead for deer season or just out camping or hiking, need to know if burn bans are on for that area and should be extra sensitive to the sight or smell of smoke which could indicate a nearby wildfire,” she said.

For more information on forestry, visit www.uaex.edu or contact your county extension office.