Despite the burn ban and added warnings about fireworks, individuals shooting fireworks on the Fourth of July apparently started a blaze that forced one woman from her home, destroyed two buildings along with several vehicles and scorched about 15 acres in north Lonoke County.
As the drought conditions continue, Gov. Mike Beebe has called for a disaster declaration for the state.
According to information from the Lonoke County Sheriff’s office, Katlynn Mayfield, 23; Samantha Ashley Mayfield, 21, and Matthew Mayfield, 24, were arrested for criminal mischief. All are residents of the West Mountain Springs area.
A sheriff’s office press release stated that a report of a fire in a field behind a West Mountain Springs Road residence was received at about 3:30 p.m. July 4.
Fire departments from Mountain Springs, Cabot, Ward, Austin, and Butlerville responded to the fire.
Officials from the Arkansas Forestry Commission also responded, as did the Lonoke County Red Cross representative.
Arkansas State Police Sgt. Brad Lamb found three individuals, identified as Katlynn Mayfield, Samantha Ashley Mayfield and Matthew Mayfield, who were riding all-terrain vehicles in the field and shooting fireworks. All were arrested for the felony criminal mischief.
Earlier in the week, Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin had added a prohibition of personal fireworks to the burn ban already in effect. In the notice, Erwin noted that despite the deeply rooted custom of fireworks on the Fourth of July, the dry conditions made private fireworks too great a threat to the safety of residents and property.
He left the organized displays at Lonoke, Ward and Cabot to the discretion of the respective mayors.
In the news release, Sheriff Jim Roberson added to the warning that anyone shooting off fireworks without a permit would be arrested.
Lonoke County Red Cross representative Rita Schmitz said one person had to be evacuated. The home was lightly damaged, but fire officials called for the home to be closed for several days to ensure any hidden embers did not rekindle a fire.
County ranger John Pressgrove of the Arkansas Forestry Commission estimated that 10 to 15 acres had been burned. Pressgrove also had a firebreak cut to ensure the blaze did not spread.
Fireworks displays at Lonoke, Ward and Cabot proceeded as scheduled but with additional firefighters and equipment on hand. All displays were without incident.
On Tuesday, Beebe announced he had called on U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for a Secretarial Disaster Designation to cover all 75 counties in Arkansas.
The persistent dry conditions have caused severe drought conditions in most of the state, and extreme drought in the remainder, Beebe said in a news release.
“It will take much more than the recent scattered rain to break these drought conditions,” the governor said. “Many of our farmers and ranchers face a tough season ahead, and the federal government can provide them with tools to ease the financial impact of crop losses.”