Here are some articles on the brush fires, none of which were all that horrible -- by Indiana standards. It's a bit early in the season, so more excitement could be yet to come.
Albion firefighters extinguished a small grass fire near Skinner Lake Tuesday, March 17. It was one of four such fires reported that day to the Noble County Sheriff's Department, before rain storms came through the next day to put a temporary end to the rash of blazes that have been burning across the area since the beginning of the weekend.
Two Albion fire trucks, assisted by two Kendallville brush units, were called to 4449 E SR 8 at 5:21 p.m. Flames burned around a driveway area before being doused 20 minutes later.
At 5:39 p.m. Noble Township firefighters were sent out to extinguish a burning utility pole along SR 9, at Big Lake. That fire, which took about ten minutes to control, reportedly spread from burning grass.
Churubusco firefighters extinguished a grass fire near Merriam in Noble County. They were called along with Noble Township units to a location along US 33, just north of the Noble-Whitley County line, at 4:09 p.m. First arriving firefighters controlled the small blaze, which apparently began with a controlled burn, within about ten minutes, and were able to send other units back.
Earlier that day, at about 1:10 p.m., Noble Township firefighters responded to assist Whitley County firefighters at a grass fire in the 200 South block of US 33, returning to base an hour later.
Firefighters fought about half a dozen similar blazes the day before, Monday, in addition to numerous fires over the weekend, but a cold front brought thunderstorms and rain through Wednesday afternoon that put an end to the danger -- temporarily. Rain had already entered the area at 2:37 p.m., when Churubusco fire units were called to a blaze that turned out to be a controlled burn, near Noble County Roads 500E and 400S.
No serious injuries or major property damage were reported.
Did you note the part about rain bringing an end to the danger? *sigh* Only for a day -- it doesn't take long for dead spring foliage to dry out under sun and a good breeze:
Four fire departments were needed to battle a blaze that spread over fields, woods, and swampland near Wawaka Thursday afternoon. No one was reported hurt in the fire, which reportedly began with a small trash fire blown out of control by brisk winds.
The fire was initially reported near 4047 W 600N, east of Diamond Lake, at 3:22 p.m., according to the Noble County Sheriff's Department. When Albion and Ligonier firefighters began arriving they initially found about two acres on fire, but the wind-whipped blaze quickly spread south and east into a swampy area of undergrowth. Cromwell and Noble Township trucks were called in, while fire departments from Noble, Whitley, and LaGrange Counties were dispatched to provide standby coverage.
Although rain passed through the area the night before, it didn't provide as much relief as firefighters had hoped; a combination of wind and sunny skies quickly dried out the dead foliage that usually contributes to Indiana ground cover fires. In fact, water was more of a hindrance than a help in more ways than one, starting with still-flooded roads that forced some fire trucks to take indirect routes to the call. On the scene, damp ground made it difficult for four wheel drive trucks to maneuver, and brush trucks became stuck twice in the path of the spreading flames.
Over a dozen fire trucks responded, with some standing by downwind to protect homes in the path of the flames. There the previous night's rain did help firefighters, because dead grasses were still damp enough to slow the fire down it reached flooded swamp areas. The fire directly endangered one residence, but the only property damage reported was a wooden tree stand that burned.
The fire was declared under control at 4:49 p.m., about an hour and a half after it started, and all units cleared the scene just after 5 p.m.
During the fire standby units came into the area from the Churubusco and Thorn Creek Fire Departments in Whitley County, and the Topeka Fire Department in LaGrange County. No other fires were reported, although Avilla and Kendallville firefighters were called to a medical assist call while the fight was going on.
Fire gutted a home near Cosperville in northwest Noble County early Friday, but the family was able to escape safely.
Flames were discovered in the Ratliff residence at 7927 N 450 W at 2:39 a.m., according to the Noble County Sheriff's Department. The 911 caller told dispatchers that everyone got out of the house, and police units arrived just a few minutes later to report the residence was already engulfed in flames. Ligonier firefighters began requesting assistance, resulting in the response of more than half a dozen fire trucks from three departments.
The cause of the fire had not yet been determined as of Friday, and remained under investigation. Both occupants and firefighters escaped serious injuries.
The burning home was down a long lane, causing access problems; however, firefighters reportedly had the advantage that the flooded Elkhart River was a short distance to the north, and they were able to set up a water supply to refill tankers at that location. The blaze was declared under control at 3:17 a.m., although firefighters remained on the scene dousing hot spots and doing an investigation for hours after that.
Crews from the Ligonier, Cromwell, and Topeka Fire Departments responded, along with the Noble County EMS and Sheriff's Department, and Ligonier Police Department. Albion firefighters were called to their station for standby.
Two dozen fires were reported over the weekend, making it the second straight weekend in a row in which firefighters were kept busy going from one column of smoke to another, dousing field, grass, and brush fires. Every fire department in Noble County was called out at least once, as firefighters faced a dozen runs on Saturday, and the same number on Sunday.
Albion fire trucks were sent to 8 of the calls, as primary responders or to assist other departments. In addition, a fire was started and went out within Albion without their being called: A witness walking their dog in a wooded area near South 1st Street found an area where someone had set fire to grass.
The discovery of the burned area came at 6:52 p.m. Saturday, but it isn't certain when the fire was started, or whether it was accidental or arson; the Albion Police Department is investigating.
Albion firefighters started early Saturday, when a grass fire broke out at 5:51 a.m. in the area of county roads 400W and 200N. Four units and 14 firefighters extinguished the blaze quickly, returning to base within half an hour. Just before 10 a.m. they investigated a utility pole fire in the 400W block of CR 550N, where they discovered a ditch fire had spread to a brand new REMC utility pole and burned it about three quarters of the way through.
Other ground cover fires would not be so easily dealt with.
At 2:27 p.m. five Albion fire units were sent to a fire that a passing ambulance crew found burning on both sides of CR 200W, near 400N. They controlled that blaze within about half an hour. While they were there Kendallville firefighters, coming from a blaze of their own near Beacon Road, put out another grass fire within sight of the one Albion firefighters were battling.
At 7:50 that even Albion firefighters checked a fire along CR 150E and determined it was a controlled burn. Numerous columns of smoke appeared all weekend, some from controlled burns that had been reported to dispatchers, and some that were not and resulted in false alarms.
Also Saturday, Churubusco firefighters came into Noble County to hit a grass fire that spread from burning trash along US 33, while Noble Township fire units were called into Whitley County to assist on a brush fire in the 700N block of Brown Road. In addiiton, Cromwell firefighters reportedly fought a small building fire in Kimmell, while Wolcottville trucks doused a grass fire in their area.
The LaOtto Fire Department answered the first two calls of Sunday, starting just before noon. At 1:42 p.m. a Sheriff's deputy was first on the scene of a grass fire near the east junction of US 6 and SR 9, and half an hour later Churubusco firefighters quenched a fire in the 500E block of CR 250S.
But only a minute after that incident began things changed for the worst, when Noble Township firefighters got into a tough fight and Albion volunteers ran on three fires in a row without even returning to their station.
A field fire broke out near county roads 500E and 250S, but Churubusco firefighters controlled it and disregarded Albion units, which had gotten about halfway there. While returning to base Albion firefighters were dispatched to a cornfield fire along CF 250W, and drove with sirens blaring into Albion and then out the other direction. Very dry corn stubble allowed the fire to spread quickly, but the ground was still too soft to take trucks onto, so even with the help of a farmer's tractor and snow blade it took over 20 minutes for Albion and Ligonier fire units to control the flames.
While that was going on, Noble Township firefighters battled their own cornfield fire along SR 109, near Wolf Lake. They were back in service for just ten minutes before being called to a grass fire at 0990W 250S; an Albion brush truck on its way home to the 350W fire was redirected to help battle the blaze.
Albion trucks were still headed home when Avilla firefighters were called to a grass fire in the 800 E block of SR 8, abou halfway between the two communities, but Avilla firefighters handled it without needing assistance. Later that afternoon Orange Township fire units were called to two fires near that town at the same time, while Avilla firefighters doused a blaze on Weimer Road and Cromwell firefighters went on standby because of a large fire in the North Webster area.
Despite all this activity, no serious injuries and only minor property damage were reported.
So -- yeah. Busy week.