CONWAY COUNTY, Ark. (KTHV) - Volunteer fire departments across Arkansas are in high gear right now, helping battle wildfires popping up all over the Natural State. These volunteers are often first on scene and stick around to support the Arkansas Forestry Commission crews.
Just to give you an example of the vital role of these rural volunteer fire departments: An unrelated press conference was going to happen Tuesday in Little Rock to recognize a grant that would help these firefighters. But the Association of Arkansas Counties cancelled it, saying these crews need to remain on standby in their hometowns as wildfire danger shows no signs of letting up.
Conway County volunteer firefighters are back at the scene Monday of a smoldering weekend wildfire.
"You just got to really douse it well?" THV's Max Seigle asks a firefighter.
"You got to, all it is, is mud and stuff around it and it will keep burning," the firefighter said.
This wildfire, on the Conway-Van Buren County line, consumed 110 acres Saturday. It was one of four area wildfires consuming time as well.
"Let's just put it this way, we were at the department putting out fires a lot more than we were at home this weekend," St. Vincent Fire Chief Charles Gangluff said.
His crew of 21 often joins other volunteers from neighboring departments on these wildfire calls.
"We're first on scene and usually depending on the severity of it or whatever, we do call forestry in," Gangluff said.
When that happens, Gangluff says volunteer firefighters let the Arkansas Forestry commission workers tackle the burning fields and woods while they work to save any buildings in the fire's path, like a church near the fire with some hot spots Monday.
"Basically our main goal is to protect the structures," Gangluff said.
"This is our first out truck, it goes to all the grass fires that we have," Gangluff says, showing us part the response effort.
The truck is armed with a 225-gallon water tank and foam capabilities; so these volunteer crews can leave the station ready to handle smaller fires on their own. Other trucks will back up with more tools for an important response the day of or follow-up later on.
This past Friday Today's THV had a chance to speak with some volunteer firefighters from Amity in Clark County. They were working on that big wildfire we covered near that community. And they tell us that their jobs ranged from tracking the fire, seeing where it was headed, to handing out water for crews on a very hot scene.
As volunteers, many of these firefighters leave their jobs during the week to respond to call. Chief Gangluff, from St. Vincent, says they were OK this past weekend with plenty of firefighters. But he is concerned about the coming days and continued threats of wildfires.