Military training at the Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center sparked a grass fire that forced people to evacuate their homes in Greenwood, according to Lt. Col. Will Phillips with the Arkansas National Guard.
A unit was shooting machine guns on a range Tuesday when the fire started, Phillips said. They used tracer rounds that allow you to see where the bullets were.
The fire quickly got out of control, Phillips said. Fort Chaffee has its own fire department but they were not able to contain the fire.
People who live in the neighborhood on Hilltop Drive were evacuated from their homes for several hours because of the fire.
“We were in the middle of dinner and the mayor popped by the door which was very impressive,” Christy Beherns told 40/29 News. “He told us we were evacuating, and it was suggested that we leave now. We loaded up two dogs and a cat and grabbed our meds and they were really nice.”
People were able to return home later that night. The fire was 85% to 90% contained Wednesday morning.
Fort Chaffee has temporarily stopped using tracer rounds while base leaders assess the weather and other conditions, Phillips said.
Sebastian County, where Fort Chaffee is located, has been under an official burn ban since Monday. County Judge David Hudson’s burn ban order cited extremely dry conditions.
The summer’s dry weather has increased the danger of wildfires across the area.
The Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center is used by the Arkansas National Guard for training. It gained national fame when Elvis Presley got his first military haircut there in 1956.
This was not the first large fire at Fort Chaffee.
In 2008, a fire destroyed about 150 vacant barracks at Fort Chaffee. In 2011, a Kentucky National Guardsman dropped a cigarette and sparked a fire that destroyed more than 100 buildings.