January 31, 2002

Warm, Dry Conditions Lead To January Grassfires In Scotland County

Unusually warm temperatures combined with a relatively dry winter made conditions ripe for a grass fire. The Scotland County Fire Department was called to the Nevin Horning property north of Arbela at 10:59 a.m. January 26.

A fire had spread from the remnants of a burning brush pile and jumped the fence line onto ground adjoining the Stanley Hatfield residence. The blaze quickly spread through the tall grass and brushy draws and at one point threatened two equipment sheds just south of the Hatfield home.

More than 15 firemen responded to the call taking six fire trucks to the scene. They were joined by numerous volunteers from the neighboring property owners.

The fire department's mini-pumper truck was the first to arrive on the scene. The crew was greeted by flames that were taller than the fire truck. The fire line was nearing the western most building and already had consumed the ground around a combine head, which was damaged by the fire. The fire crew was able to stop the spread of the fire and save the buildings.

The remaining force of fire trucks focused on the eastern fire line, which was being fueled by high winds. Once the spread of the fire was brought under control, firemen finished off hot spots along the fence line where brush and other materials were located. Firemen had to cut down a larger tree that was still proving to be a fire hazard.

The department was on the scene for approximately 90 minutes. Despite the efforts, the department was called back to the scene at 2:51 p.m. The landowners had been able to prevent a significant spread of additional fire but the fire department used water trucks to soak the hot spots in the brush.

The firemen also used the department's new foam unit to further douse these problem areas. The chemical foam serves to suffocate any fire remnants and prevents the normal process of evaporation of the fire fighting agents. Normally a brush fire can rekindle itself after the heat from the fire remnants evaporates the water sprayed by the fire department. The foam leaves less fire remnants and also leaves less material that can easily be rekindled. The new device will also be a valuable tool in dealing with hay bale fires as well as fuel and other chemical related problems that might arise at accident scenes.

Representatives of the fire department asked that all landowners be aware that the unusually warm weather combined with dry conditions this winter can quickly turn an unattended trash fire or a smoldering brush pile into a grass fire.

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