BY ANDREA BRUNER
PLEASANT PLAINS &emdash; A large blaze destroyed approximately 200 acres of timber and hunting grounds in southern Independence County Saturday night. Pleasant Plains Fire Chief Stacey Caplener said officials are unsure how or exactly where the fire began since the property has three different access points to it and by the time they arrived it had engulfed such a large area.
"It burned 200 acres or more , it went all the way down to the creek at Freeman Hill," Caplener said. He said his department got the call between 6 and 6:30 p.m., they called the Forestry Service, who started plowing a fire line in an effort to contain the blaze. "One campsite, past where a contractor was doing logging, had burned a camper and a late model Jeep also; it burned the area pretty good, it jumped roads," Caplener continued. The property is leased by Flatwoods Hunting Club; the president of the hunting club is Bobby Carroll of Oil Trough.
The land is owned by an Arkansas paper company called PotlatchDeltic Timber Corp.; Potlatch and Deltic merged earlier this year. Forestry and Potlatch- Deltic brought a bulldozer into help, and with the assistance of the local fire department they were able to move three log skidders, valued at around $300,000 each, out of the path of the fire, so that equipment was undamaged. However, two log loaders were damaged quite a bit, with one being totaled, Caplener said.
"It had to be burning a long time," Caplener said, but added that they believed the fire was contained. Billy and Dana Thomas were out driving around and came up on the fire Saturday evening, Dana said. "We have no idea how it started. When we first found it and called 911 we didn't go any farther because we had to turn around and open the locked gate back down the road to let the fire trucks in," she said.
"They followed us back into the lease and we went on down into the lease. That's when we realized just how big it was." She said they were thankful they decided to take a drive out there otherwise it could have been worse.