Wildfire burns over 550 acres at Mark Twain National Forest; Hig - KMOV.com

Wildfire burns over 550 acres at Mark Twain National Forest; Highway closed

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IRON COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV.com) Fire concerns in Missouri widened Friday as crews battled a blaze of several hundred acres in the Mark Twain National Forest in Iron County, Missouri.

The Mark Twain blaze broke out Thursday morning near Bixby in a section of the 1.5-million acre forest located in southeast Missouri’s Iron County. By midday Friday, 550 acres had burned, and an additional 2,000 acres were at risk.

Authorities seemed to be making progress, though, as officials said they had a containment ring around the fire Friday evening.

Highway 32 between Highway A and Highway 49 south has been closed because the fire was burning on both sides of the highway, causing trees to fall onto the road.

Crews were dumping water from helicopters to stop its spread, said Rick Case, assistant fire manager with the Mark Twain Nation Forest.

Gov. Jay Nixon activated the State Emergency Operations Center and told the Missouri National Guard to get ready to assist with firefighting efforts.

So far, the blaze has been about 40 percent contained.

Eberly said  no homes or structures are in the direct line of the fires and no evacuation orders have been issued.

Fire crews say the fires they are fighting are unlike typical brush fires. Because of the low humidity, they say the trees and other brush are more dry than usual. That’s allowing the fire to creep up high in the trees, making it difficult to battle.

The Mark Twain fire comes on the heels of an especially dry spring in which several fires burned across about 8,500 acres during six days in early March, including three that were each responsible for charring more than 1,000 acres, said Ben Webster, fire program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Because of the fire threat, Webster’s department announced Friday that effective immediately, campfires and other open fires are banned in all conservation areas. Webster said the ban would remain in effect until the state receives significant rain.

“We don’t want to do this for folks,” Webster said. “This is something that because of conditions we are doing to be proactive in preventing fires from occurring.”

The U.S. Forest Service also has barred camp or stove fires at the Mark Twain National Forest. Also, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which oversees state parks and historic sites, barred campfires at a growing list of places, including Arrow Rock State Historic Site, Bennett Spring State Park, Graham Cave State Park, Trail of Tears State Park, Mark Twain State Park, Van Meter State Park, Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site and Montauk State Park.

As the National Weather Service issued heat advisories for several sections of the state, health officials urged caution. Numerous communities set up cooling centers, and state regulators sent out a reminder that triple-digit temperatures mean Missouri utilities cannot disconnect electricity from people for not paying their bills.

For more information, visit the Mark Twain National Forest website.

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