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Forestry Commission needs more money | News

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Forestry Commission needs more money

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- With wildfires popping up all over the state, the Arkansas Forestry Commission says they are in need of additional funds to operate.

1,400 fires, more than 21,000 acres burned and we haven't even hit the traditional fire season yet.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission has had dozers, trucks and air support fighting fires on nearly a daily basis since the middle of June. That means more fuel, more maintenance and more money that is putting a dent in their budget weeks before they had planned.

"We need some more people so we can let our guys have some rest," says State Forester Joe Fox.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission has been going strong for weeks and State Forester Joe Fox with the Arkansas Forestry Commission says they see no signs of slowing down.

"We're just now going into the time of the year when it's suppose to be fire season and we're now in the middle of a drought and six weeks in it and we've got another eight weeks to go in any normal year," says Fox.

Air support is not normally brought in until August first but single engine air tankers have been putting out fires all over the state for the past six weeks.

"We're one hundred and twenty thousand dollars into a budget that wasn't intended to be spent before August first. We're in pretty good shape right now but come October, November, December, if the drought continues well into the fall which occasionally that happens, we're going to have to ask for some help," says Fox.

The help could come from emergency funds until the legislature meets again next year. That is when Fox plans to ask for an additional $1.9 million dollars to beef up their fuel and maintenance budget and fund 20 extra positions, including 13 more firefighters. It is money Fox says the agency can no longer do without.

"Without the extra funding, we would have to do away with the single engine air tankers and we'd have to scale back as far as resting our people. There could be some fires we couldn't respond to if we don't get some more people," says Fox.

Fox says what he is most concerned about is losing funding for those single engine air tankers. He says those planes are an intricate part in saving lives, homes property and make it much easier for dozers on the ground to contain wildfires.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission estimates the state is well on it's way to seeing 50,000 acres burned this year, almost double the ten year average.


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