Judge issues burn ban for Jefferson County

Despite a spring dominated by wet weather and cool temperatures, the recent lack of rain coupled with temperatures in the 90s led Jefferson County Judge Dutch King to issue a countywide burn ban Wednesday until further notice.

“There is a burn ban on my desk awaiting my signature,” King said Wednesday morning. “The official notice of the ban will be going out shortly. I talked with Arkansas Forestry Commission personnel earlier this morning and they said that conditions are dry and not likely to get much better in the coming days.”

King wanted to be as proactive as possible with the burn ban designation in order to get the word out on the dry conditions.

“I’d rather be safe than sorry when it comes to this so we’re going with a burn ban for Jefferson County until further notice,” King said. “From what I’ve seen, things are dry and while the forecast says there is a chance for rain tomorrow if we don’t get any we will have these hot, dry conditions for at least the next week or so. The dry conditions increase the level of fire danger tremendously.”

Other Arkansas counties under burn bans include Cleveland, Saline, Garland, Clark, Howard, Yell, Pope, Johnson, Newton and Searcy.

Dave Scheibe, observation program leader with the National Weather Service, said that there are only small chances for rain in Southeast Arkansas over the next several days.

“Basically what we’re looking at is chances for isolated thunderstorms over the next few days,” Scheibe said. “We do have a weak frontal system in the state today but there are not great chances for rain associated with it.”

Scheibe said the dry conditions have developed thanks to typical July weather in Arkansas.

“The conditions that led to the current dry weather are not unusual,” Scheibe said. “We have had an upper level ridge of high pressure anchored over the area. That doesn’t mean we can’t get a strong or even a severe thunderstorm, however, thanks to the abundant heat and humidity.”

The NWS issued a special weather statement Wednesday summarizing the situation.

“Prolonged dry conditions across the state have prompted the Arkansas Forestry Commission to put the majority of the state in moderate fire danger,” the statement said. “All but the northeast corner is listed in the moderate wildfire category. With the lack of widespread precipitation vegetation such as grass and shrubs continue to dry out. In fact the moisture level of many of these plants is below the critical ten percent threshold.”