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Burn ban spreads to 50 counties

Burns bans are now in effect in 50 counties and outdoor burning is strongly discouraged across the state, the Arkansas Forestry Commission said Monday.

The commission said 48 wildfires burned over the weekend and that 21 homes were threatened by the flames but were saved by suppression efforts.

Most of the fires burned between 5 and 10 acres. A total of 127 acres burned over the weekend, not including a fire in the Ouachita National Forest near lake Lake Ouachita State Park that began Friday and had burned about 2,000 acres by Monday afternoon.

Another 13 fires burned across 68 acres on Monday, according to the Forestry Commission.

The commission said its crews have worked 237 fires so far this month, or 30 percent of the total number of wildfires fought in all of 2013.

“We are beginning … what appears to be a much more dangerous year for wildfire activity than we experienced last year. We ask all homeowners and citizens in Arkansas to continue to be very careful,” State Forester Joe Fox said in a news release.

The commission said it currently has a fleet of 16 planes to assist with fire detection and suppression, and that an additional four single-engine air tankers are expected to arrive Feb. 1 to help ground crews via aerial fire suppression tactics.

Counties with burn bans in effect Monday were Ashley, Baxter, Boone, Benton, Carroll, Clark, Clay, Cleburne, Cleveland, Conway, Crawford, Dallas, Drew, Faulkner, Franklin, Fulton, Garland, Grant, Greene, Hot Spring, Howard, Independence, Izard, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Lincoln, Logan, Lonoke, Madison, Marion, Newton, Ouachita, Perry, Pike, Prairie, Polk, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Searcy, Sebastian, Sharp, Stone, Van Buren, Washington, White, Woodruff, and Yell.

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