LITTLE ROCK— Forecasters say windy, dry conditions could create dangerous wildfire conditions for much of Arkansas through the week ahead. A red flag warning was in effect Monday. Red flag warnings mean that fires can spread rapidly, and all outdoor burning should be curtailed.
The National Weather Service in Little Rock says wind gusts of 20 mph or more are possible over the next few days. That, combined with low humidity levels and drought conditions in the state, raises the risk of wildfires.
Jefferson and all surrounding counties are currently under a burn ban and are at high risk for wildfires. At least one wildfire was reported and contained in the county on Monday. In northwest Arkansas, wildfires burned at least 65 acres in the Boxley Valley area on Monday.
Meanwhile, in California, the wildfire danger is worsening. Authorities have issued new alerts about unhealthy air from smoke and ash sent up by a growing Southern California wildfire.
Richard Sanchez, a manager at Jeannine’s American Bakery Restaurant in the foothill enclave of Montecito, says customers are coming in Monday wearing masks. He says smoke is so thick that visibility is down to a few feet and a layer of ash is coating the streets. Regulators are warning people in parts of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties to stay indoors, avoid vigorous outdoor activities and not do anything to stir up ash.
Even residents of Montecito and neighboring Carpinteria who aren’t under evacuation orders have opted to leave because of the thick blanket of smoke. Crews aided by calm evening winds kept a wall of flames from descending from mountains into coastal towns after a huge Southern California wildfire exploded in size over the weekend.
Thousands remain under evacuation orders Monday as the fire churns west through foothill areas of Carpinteria and Montecito, Santa Barbara County seaside towns about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles. Much of the fire’s new growth occurred on the eastern and northern fronts into unoccupied areas of Los Padres National Forest.
The fire, which had already destroyed more than 750 buildings, burned six more in Carpinteria on Sunday. It’s just 10 percent contained after burning nearly 360 square miles (930 square kilometers). Officials say the blaze, which broke out a week ago in neighboring Ventura County, is now the 5th largest in California history. President Donald Trump received a lunchtime briefing on Monday regarding the government’s response to wildfires in California.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters says Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue also briefed Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on a wildfire prevention roundtable he participated in Monday. Trump has declared a state of emergency in the state and ordered federal agencies to help with the efforts. Walters says the White House “continues to closely monitor the situation” and is urging “anyone ordered to evacuate during a wildfire, do so immediately and listen to your local and state officials.”
She also says the White House “extends its thoughts and prayers” to everyone affected by the fires that have been tearing through Southern California.