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Wildfire is contained, but burn marks reveal how bad it could've been

Tracer rounds used in Fort Chaffee cause wildfire that quickly spread through parts of Sebastian County, threatening homes outside of Greenwood.

GREENWOOD, Ark. — Tuesday afternoon, a grassfire began within the boundary of Fort Chaffee. The fire was sparked after training maneuvers using tracer rounds caught the dry grass ablaze. 

Winds shifted pushing the fire towards Greenwood. Fire crews say flames were close to 40 feet high at times and began to threaten dozens of homes near Hilltop and Norwood Drives. 

Today, the fire was classified as a wildfire that burned between 20 to 25 acres of private land and still has many hot spots burning themselves out within Fort Chaffee. Officials say until conditions improve, and the burn ban is lifted, the use of tracer rounds has been suspended. 

For one resident near the blaze, he says he was relieved when he got the all-clear from firefighters and first responders to go home. 

“I could breathe a lot better then, I said, ‘at least it ain’t on the house yet’,” said Dale Qualls. As he returned home and saw embers burning in the distance he recalled thinking, “well as long as the wind will stay down, the fire break should do its job.” 

Qualls was out running errands when flame erupted in his neighborhood, and says he received more than 50 phone calls from friends and family who were worried. 

“It was just a big ole ‘shroom up sittin’ up in the air, and I seen the black and think, ‘man, that’s not a good sight, it’s got a house or something’,” said Qualls. “I gotta get up there and see how bad it is.” 

When Qualls returned, he said officers waved him through but all he could do was wait. 

While he waited, Qualls thought about a fire from 2011 that also burned in the neighborhood, even burning one home down. 

Qualls tells 5NEWS that back then he was “afraid it was gonna start house jumping because the house went up so quick, I mean it lasted maybe three minutes and it was poof.” 

The fire from just over a decade ago was also sparked during a burn ban in Sebastian County. 

Travis Cooper, the Deputy Director for the Sebastian County Department of Emergency Management says Tuesday’s fire is a prime example of just how quickly things can get out of hand during a burn ban. 

“It’s not going to take but probably a few seconds to catch fire and spread, especially with a wind that is pushing behind these fires with how dry it is,” said Cooper. 

Cooper was on-scene all afternoon and into late Tuesday night before catching a few hours of sleep and returning early Wednesday morning. He says crews continued to monitor the area and investigate any calls of concern from residents. Just before noon on Wednesday, Cooper reported the area near Greenwood was 100% contained. 

“We were able to see and verify that the containment for South Boundary Road and close to the City of Greenwood, that the fire is 100%,” said Cooper. “So, that’s a blessing knowing that we had all the resources available here locally, and then, also with working with the State Forestry Commission and their resources, and of course, with the hard work that the Fort Chaffee Fire Department also did in helping contain this, we’re now at 100% containment in the Sebastian County, City of Greenwood area.” 

During burn bans, officials urge all residents to refrain from having campfires or bonfires and to be extremely cautious of any sparks that could fall into dry vegetation. 

RELATED: Burn bans in place across Arkansas

RELATED: Arkansas officials issue 'high' wildfire risk for 12 counties

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