- Associated Press - Sunday, October 11, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - With the rice harvest drawing to a close in Arkansas, utility companies and agriculture extension agents are urging farmers to use caution when burning their fields.

Most fields that are burned are rice fields as farmers seek to clear the residue in preparation for the coming year.

Entergy Arkansas supervisor Monty Harrell said the company loses about three steel structures or wooden poles each year during the burning. The structures and poles support electric transmission lines and cost about $30,000 each, and anyone found responsible for damage or destruction can be held financially liable.

Farmers should also be familiar with local burn laws and be aware of weather conditions when planning the controlled burns, said Keith Perkins, cooperative extension agriculture agent in Lonoke County.

“If there are electrical lines, phone lines, any kind of lines running through the property or by the property, you need your fire to stop well short of anything that doesn’t need to be burned,” Perkins said, adding that common sense should also be use.

“When the field is set on fire, make sure none of your employees are in the field, and none of your equipment is left in the field. There have been cases of tractors being burned up,” he said.

Perkins said growers should also be aware of traffic on nearby roads as heavy smoke from the burning can lower drivers’ visibility and make driving hazardous.

Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said Arkansas rice producers burn approximately one-quarter of all rice acreage each year - 300,000 and 400,000 acres were burned each year between 2012-2014.

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