Dry brush lights up local fires

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 9, 2000

Today’s rain will ease tension among fire crews battling brush blazes, but the threat probably won’t go away this week.

Thursday, March 09, 2000

Today’s rain will ease tension among fire crews battling brush blazes, but the threat probably won’t go away this week.

Email newsletter signup

Rain doesn’t totally extinguish forest and brush fires, Dean State Forest assistant district forester Bob Boylef said.

"Large fuels (logs and trees) are still burning," Boylef said.

Rain might douse the flames but the trees, for instance, will smolder.

"The wind picks up, it dries out, spreads the embers around and you are back where you started," he said.

Dean foresters brought in about a dozen firefighters from other state forests Wednesday. They battled nine different fires, some of which remain this morning, Boylef said.

Windsor, Rome, Fayette, Chesapeake, Perry and other volunteer fire departments also have been battling scattered brush fires throughout the county for about a week – some next to major highways, some in remote hollows, some deliberately set on hilltops.

"The crews are just about exhausted," Windsor fire chief Don Christian said. "It started last Friday afternoon and it’s been running steady ever since."

Windsor firefighters, who cover their township and neighboring Mason, go out every day before noon and finish up about 10 to 11 p.m. every night, Christian said.

"You work a half dozen fires and a regular job and it just kills you."

The department averaged about five to seven fires a day, although Thursday brought only three, he said.

"That’s about right for fire season," Christian said. "It is kind of early though. It’s usually the last of March to early May."

A lack of rain and winds mixed with steadily warming temperatures this weekend, beginning the string of blazes that have filled the air with a smoky haze across much of the county.

On Wednesday alone, when temperatures hovered near 80 degrees, Lawrence County 911 dispatchers called out volunteer fire departments to at least five different brush fires before 5 p.m.

Windsor firefighters built fire breaks and battled forest fires on Tick Ridge and Reeves Creek.

Rome volunteer crews battled one on Hind Hollow off Ohio 775. Fayette Sunrise and Chesapeake responded to flames on Ohio 243.

A Chesapeake crew received assistance from Lawrence Township for other fires off Ohio 243. And Perry firefighters were called out to the Ohio 243 and County Road 56 intersection.

"I know the guys up the river are hustling like usual," Lawrence chief Phil Hardy said just before he left for the Chesapeake brush fire.

"They have quite a few that appear to be deliberately set," Hardy said.

Christian agreed, adding that departments in central Lawrence County see the same pattern.

"We’ve had some escaped fires and we’ve had a lot of intentional sets, which occur for different reasons," he said.

Some people burn off brush from farmland or around homes and it just gets away from them, Christian said. Other fires can be blamed on pranksters.

"Why? I don’t know, but we have to put them out and they can turn dangerous."

A brush fire Monday touched off a house fire on Slate Run Road.

"The fire came in behind it, caught the grass and it went up the wall and into the attic," Christian said.

Firefighters contained the blaze to the attic but the owner lost many antiques and family heirlooms, he said.

The best way county residents can help during the brush fire season is to be very careful, Christian said.

By law, open burning is allowed only at night – between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., he said.

But common sense should reign, even during those times, Christian said.

"If you’ve got a lot of wind, over 10 miles an hour, don’t do it," he said. "And have at least a 25-foot path around it where there’s no dry leaves, brush or buildings. Stay with it until the fire’s extinguished."

Residents or motorists also should report a forest or brush fire to 911 as quickly as possible, Christian added.

"If we get started early, then the faster we get it out," he said.

Cooler temperatures and chances of rain predicted through this weekend might or might not help, Christian said.

"It’s hard to tell. We need a good steady rain all day," he said.

But, in three or four days, the forest floor becomes dry again.

"Then it will take off again until it turns greener out there."