Strange Blaze Near England, Arkansas, Puzzles Police
Arkansas Democrat Gazette, March 11, 2000
A mysterious fire scorched 40 acres early Friday morning before emergency workers controlled it, central Arkansas officials said. The Pulaski County Emergency Management Department responded to the fire just before midnight a few miles south of England when a call alerted officials to a possible plane crash, Emergency Management Director Kathy Botsford said. No evidence of a plane crash was found. The fire burned parts of Pulaski, Lonoke and Jefferson counties. Most of the damage was sustained on land in Jefferson County, which is in charge of the investigation, according to Lt. Eugene Butler of that county's sheriff's office. Only one house sits near the l50-foot-wide, mile-long area that burned, but no damage was reported to that building. A pipeline explosion was also suggested as a cause of the fire, but Botsford said that the contents of the pipes running rough the area are nonflammable and the company that owns the pipes said no leaks had been detected.
Several people in the area reported seeing a shooting star between 9 and 10 p.m., but Botsford was skeptical of the meteorite theory. "I just doubt that possibility at this point," Botsford said. "We're just not really sure what started the fire." Butler said he had reports of a "mushroom-type ball of fire," in the area before the fire, but he said he couldn't say how it started. "Right now we're just trying to find the origin of the fire," Butler said. Pulaski County sheriff's office spokesman John Rehrauer said he saw something in the sky while driving in Little Rock - 25 miles northwest of England - about 8 p.m."I was driving down the freeway and it caught my eye," Rehrauer said. "I said to my wife, 'That was a bright shooting star.' " Meteorologist Mike Thompson at the National Weather Service said no meteor shower was expected Thursday night, but that didn't exclude either a meteorite a meteor that reaches the earth or debris from outer space starting the blaze.
Statement by Al Collier, Arkansas Eye-witness
Report dated March 14, 2000
On Thursday evening about 11:45 p.m. I was listening to the police radios. (Note: nothing here is being discussed or released that has not already been released to the press.) There was a report of a possible plane crash on the county lines near England, Arkansas. (see map). The early reports were of a fire so hot the firemen could not get the trucks close enough to fight the fire. There was discussion about how 'sparkly' the flames were and the odd colors of the flames. One Sheriff's deputy reported the fire was so intense his paint was trying to peel on his car. The flames and heat were so intense that no one could enter the area to search for a possible plane crash. The Little Rock police helicopter was asked to do an aerial search for any plane crash. There was none.
On Monday evening March 13, 2000 my wife and I drove to the site. There were reports on the local talk radio station that the area was blocked to road travel by the military. These reports were false. We spoke with one man who lives about 4 miles east of the burn site. He told us of a spot where " a meteor" had buried itself. We found the area where there was some burned tracked, plus heavy equipment tire prints leading back to and area where a 'borough' was visible leading to an area that appeared to have been dug out with back hoes. The borough was about 6 to 10 feet wide and about 150 yards long. It was too dark to take any photos.
On Tuesday March 14, 2000, I drove back to the area. I was denied admission to the area where the borough was. The farmer was working on the land to level out the field and was not allowing anyone on the site. About one and a half miles to the west of this location was the main burn site. It is an area of approximately one half mile wide by one to one and half miles long. I drove until the road became impossible to travel. The burn area was a mix of small circular patterns. There were many small 'craters' that looked more like something had been pulled out of the ground rather than put in the ground. The ground around these craters was white and crusted. As I touched the dirt, it crumbled like old pottery. Most of the burned area went less than 3 feet up the trees. Even blades of grass were burned from the bottom up and did not travel more than half way. There were areas were several blades were burned and yet others next to them were not touched. There was no smell of anything burned, although there was a smell of something I remembered from High School Chemistry class. I believe it was sulfur.
I spoke with the owner of the land. He informed me that the Forestry Commission and the Fire Marshall had determined the trees were burned to a depth of 2". They knew of no natural occurring substance that could cause such heat. There was also no know way to burn the trees as severe as they were at the bottom and not burn the tops. There have been reports of the military being on location those are false. Not one local ever saw any military person. There have been a report that after the fireball was seen Little Rock Air Force Base scrambled planes, this is also false, I was listening to the control tower all the time and there was no such event. The timing of the evening has varied reports. A fireball was reported visible in Little Rock about 8 p.m. There was a report by a local that his house shook at between 9:30 and 10 p.m. The fire was reported at about 11:30 p.m.