Changing Arkansas Weather Brings Lighting Fires

July 9, 2012

Lightning started at least seven wildfires in drought-parched Arkansas on Friday, and although none caused any structure damage or injuries, one home was destroyed when a trash fire spread out of control in Lowell, state and local fire officials said.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission sent airplanes to look for fires after thunderstorms rolled through the state and left thousands of people without electricity. The largest lightning-borne fire was in Drew County, where about 75 acres burned.

Crews suppressed dozens of other smaller fires that along with the Drew County fire burned nearly 300 acres, and they were working to contain a handful of other fires Friday evening.

The state is forecast to get more thunderstorms and a break from high temperatures next week, but forecasters said the expected inch or so of rain wouldn’t alleviate the state’s historic drought conditions. Only two of Arkansas’ 75 counties don’t have burn bans in place.

Wildfires in Garland and Johnson counties briefly threatened a handful of rural homes on Friday. Fires also were reported in Boone, Union, Drew and Nevada counties. The Northwest Arkansas Times reported a trash fire that spread caused a blaze that destroyed a house in Lowell, though no injuries were reported.

The forestry commission used single-engine air tankers to drop water on the fires, along with Black Hawk helicopters on loan from the Arkansas National Guard that were expected to continue working through the weekend.

The U.S. Forest Service closed part of the 218-mile Ozark Highlands Trail in northern Arkansas because of a fire in the Bee Ridge Area, between mile posts 28 and 30.

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