Firelines, rain keep wildfire contained near Buffalo River

A firefighter sets a fireline on Nov. 21, 2016, near Whitaker Point in Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area to contain a leaf fire set by an unattended campfire. (from National Forest Service)
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BOXLEY, Ark. - The National Forest Service had some good news on Wednesday morning about the forest fire near Whitaker Point south of Boxley in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area. It said the firelines were holding well and the rain on Tuesday night helped firefighters. That will allow the trail to Whitaker Point, also known as Hawksbill Crag, to reopen on Thanksgiving Day.

The fire is about 50 percent contained. Forest Service Big Piney District Ranger Timothy Jones said in an email message that the fire has stayed within containment lines since a successful burnout operation on Monday.

Jones said about .75 inches of rain fell on Tuesday night. Jones also says clouds and a higher general relative humidity through Saturday will help, along with predicted rain next week.

The Forest Service determined the cause of the fire was an unattended, or improperly extinguished campfire. This is punishable by a fine, and those responsible could face responsibility for the cost of the wildfire suppression efforts and any damages. If you have information that could aid in identifying the person, or persons, responsible for the fire, you can call (479) 964-7576.

The incident commander is working with Forest Service public affairs staff members to reopen the Whitaker Point trail on Thanksgiving. They'll staff the trail through the weekend to caution visitors about trail and fire safety and warn them about peering over the bluff to see the burned area. Firefighters are not using the trail to access the fire and will monitor leaf fall for potential re-burn through the next rain predicted on Tuesday.

Firefighters are also keeping structure protection measures in place until the fire is declared out. That's to protect privately owned buildings near the national forest.