Our brush fire season can be very busy, but we don't get the huge, fast moving and very hot ground cover fires like they have out west (well, not usually). Our are mostly just a nuisance, but as people have built more and more homes in rural areas, we've had more and more fires that start in a field, woods or ditch, and end up taking out a vehicle, outbuilding, or occasionally even a house. That hasn't happened this year -- but it's still early.
Firefighters around Noble County responded to 14 grass, brush and field fires over the weekend, marking the unofficial beginning of 2009's grass fire season.
That brings with it the annual request from officials that the public be very careful with controlled burns, which frequently go out of control -- and that those who are being careful while burning trash, brush piles and fence lines report their activity to the Noble County Sheriff's Department, to cut down on false alarms.
In early spring the still dead ground cover dries quickly as soon as the snow cover melts, making it burn more easily and faster than most people realize. Firefighters have watched grass burn around snowdrifts and across swamps of standing water, and it takes only a slight breeze to blow a small trash or ditch fire out of control. Recent flooding actually makes things worse: The foliage still dries out quickly, but saturated ground makes it difficult and dangerous to take four wheel drive brush trucks off the roadway.
Two trucks got stuck in the mud Saturday at a fire in the 200 block of East Northport Road, near Rome City, and had to be pulled out with a tractor. One of the Albion Fire Department's two brush trucks experienced mechanical problems there and had to be towed away, while an Orange Township brush truck also had to be taken out of service. That fire, which began at about 12:45 p.m. as a controlled burn that spread into fields, required the response of Albion, Orange Township, Noble Township, and Johnson Township fire trucks, and took almost an hour to bring under control.
In addition to that Saturday call, the Albion Fire Department investigated four fires on Sunday. They were called to a grass fire along Vacation Way, at Upper Long Lake, at 2 p.m. -- just ten minutes after LaOtto and Huntertown firefighters were sent to a grass fire in the 1100 E block of CR 550S. A LaOtto fire truck reportedly was involved in an accident during that fire, according to the Indiana State Police, but no one was injured.
A Noble Township brush truck joined four Albion fire units at the Vacation Way Fire, which was controlled in about 20 minutes.
On the way back from that fire Albion firefighters discovered another fire burning, but after checking with a property owner discovered it was a controlled burn that had not been reported.
Albion volunteers were still at the station when they were called at 3:14 p.m. to a fire on Weber Road, near the Noble REMC facility. A small area of field burned over in that blaze,
which began as a controlled burn and was brought back under control after about ten minutes.
At 6:30 p.m. a field fire was discovered along CR 100W, north of Albion Road. The crews
of four trucks spent about 25 minutes controlling that fire, which is believed to have started from a discarded cigarette or other burning material.
Also on Sunday, Noble Township firefighters extinguished grass fires on the east side of Bear Lake, near CR 200S, and in the 900 W block of Knapp Lake Road, where an outbuilding was threatened before responders doused the flames. Later in the day LaOtto fire units responded to a location in the 200 S block of Old SR 3, where a controlled fire spread over about an acre of a neighbor's property. LaOtto firefighters also battled a grass fire in the 1000 E block of Swan Road on Friday the 13th.
On Saturday Churubusco firefighters fought a field fire that spread from burning trash, and threatened a barn before been controlled 20 minutes later. That call was in the 400S block of CR 200E, and came in at 3:53 p.m.; about an hour previously, Cromwell fire trucks were sent to a grass fire on Sparta Lake Road.
Police also had a hand in the calls: A Sheriff's Department Deputy checked a ditch fire that proved to be the remains of a controlled burn early Sunday on Knapp Lake Road, while later in the day Avilla Police checked a fire on Albion Street that turned out to be a trash or leaf fire and, early Monday morning, Cromwell Police discovered an unattended brush fire burning in that town.
To top off all of that, late on Saturday night fire broke out in a recreational vehicle as it was being towed on CR 550N, near US 33. The driver reportedly suffered minor smoke inhalation as he unhooked his truck from the towed fifth wheel camper, which was heavily damaged before Cromwell and Ligonier firefighters controlled the flames at about 11:32 p.m. Other than that, no injuries were reported in any of the incidents.