HOT SPRINGS, Ark - A wildfire is burning in steep, rugged terrain approximately 2 miles northeast of Shady Lake Recreation Area in Montgomery County according to Ouachita National Forest fire managers.
Smoke was reportedly seen in the area on November 26th, but cloudy conditions prevented firefighters from pinpointing the location of the blaze until the following day. The fire, burning on Raspberry Mountain, may be the result of a lightning strike.
The wildfire, currently estimated at around 120 acres in size, is being allowed to burn with close monitoring to determine when full-suppression measures are necessary. Barring rainfall that could signal the end to Arkansas' fire season, the fire could be contained at the existing control lines within the next several weeks.
"We're managing the fire as a wildland fire using other than full suppression efforts," said Gloria Chrismer, District Ranger. "This strategy is effective when rugged terrain with limited access makes placing firefighters on firelines riskier. We also consider the existing conditions, asking are there potential resource benefits and are there natural barriers in place? In this case, the answer is yes."
Chrismer explained that the more holistic approach in managing this fire puts the safety of the public and employees at the forefront, uses natural fire barriers with less resource damage and is more economically efficient. Specialists like District Fire Management Officer Ben Rowland are called upon to efficiently and effectively manage the fire.
"Although we're not actively suppressing the fire at this time, the fire is being managed," said Rowland. " We are monitoring it closely. Currently it is burning primarily on south slopes with relatively low intensity. As it moves closer to existing roads we will be able to safely take suppression actions. "
Fire managers say that the fire is not burning near private property. It is bounded on four sides by the Athens-Big Fork trail on the east, County Road 106 on the north, County Road 38 on the west, and
Forest Service road 908 on the south. At this time, there are no closures in the area.
This strategy differs from "full suppression" in a number of important ways. With full suppression, immediate action is undertaken to control wildfires as quickly as possible. When human improvements such as homes, outbuildings and other structures are imminently threatened, full suppression is absolutely necessary.
Some firelines may be constructed, but much less than if a full suppression strategy were used. Firefighters will be exposed to far fewer hazards including risks associated with falling snags and steep terrain with poor access. The environmental effects will be monitored both during and after the burn.
"Deer hunters and other visitors are urged to call the ranger district for current status prior to planning outings in the area. The safety of the public and firefighters will always be top priority," said Chrismer.
For more information, call 870-867-2101 or log on to http://fs.usda.gov/ouachita or www.inciweb.org.