Firefighters contain 50-acre wildfire near Highway 187

Thursday, August 19, 2021
A Holiday Island firefighter works to extinguish the north end of the fire line after a wildfire on Wednesday, Aug. 11, near Highway 187.

With help from other agencies, the Inspiration Point Fire Department extinguished and contained a wildfire just off Highway 187 on Wednesday, Aug. 11.

Inspiration Point fire chief Austin Kennedy said the crew received notification of the fire at 4 p.m. and responded with two brush trucks and a tanker truck. While the firefighters stopped the blaze from encroaching on a nearby residence, Kennedy said, the fire began moving rapidly toward Ward Road. That’s when he called for backup, Kennedy said.

“We knew we needed additional manpower, so we put out a mutual aid request to Holiday Island, Grassy Knob and Eureka rural for tanker support,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said Arkansas forestry representatives responded with a bulldozer and ran a fire line along the north and west sides of the blaze. Because of high winds, Kennedy said, the fire jumped over the fire line and firefighters spread out to stop the blaze from reaching nearby structures. The fire was dangerously close to an RV park, Kennedy said, and other homes that would require evacuation if the situation escalated.

The firefighters finally got the fire under control at 7 p.m., three hours after responding to the call, Kennedy said. It took another three hours before the main fire was extinguished at 10 p.m.

“That was when we could say the majority of the fire was out,” Kennedy said. “From there, it was putting out hot spots. This was not a normal call. This was a rather large wild land fire.”

Typically, Kennedy said, wild land fires involve an acre or less.

“Sometimes we can get three acres, but this was approximately a 50-acre fire,” Kennedy said. “When it comes to wild land fires, unless there’s a natural barrier or you create a barrier, that fire will spread forever as long as there’s something for it to feed on.”

Kennedy said the blaze never expanded past the 50-acre property where it started, crediting support from other agencies. Specifically, Kennedy thanked the Grassy Knob Fire Department, Arkansas Forestry and Wildlife Extension, Eureka Springs Rural Fire Department, Holiday Island Fire Department, Eureka Springs EMS and the Carroll County Dispatch Center.

“It definitely could have turned out a whole heck of a lot worse without having a unified command system in place and attacking quickly,” Kennedy said. “If that fire had jumped over Ward Road, we would have had a lot of residents in trouble. It could have continued all the way to Banks Ranch, which is approximately 4,000 acres.”

The blaze was caused by an unattended fire, Kennedy said, which spread rapidly because of high winds. Kennedy said he called Carroll County Judge Sam Barr after the fire requesting a burn ban, and Barr issued the burn ban on Friday morning.

“Land fires can get really bad really quick,” Kennedy said. “Look at what happened in California. Those areas are impacted where you have thousands and thousands of acres that are burned. That could have easily happened here.”

Kennedy said rural fire departments do such a great job because of volunteers and encouraged everyone to get involved. You don’t have to put out fires to volunteer for the fire department, Kennedy said.

“We have all types of positions we need help with,” Kennedy said. “It’s important that we have a thriving volunteer fire department, because there could have been several, several homes lost in this fire.”

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