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Dry conditions lead to numerous field fires

Dry conditions lead to numerous field fires
Dry conditions lead to numerous field fires
Steve Adcock of the Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Department sprays a grass fire that had started to spread to a mobile home along Big Indian Road east of Corydon on Feb. 15. The cause of the fire, which burned about two acres and melted the skirting on the mobile home, was started by an untended fire from the previous day. Photos by Alan Stewart (click for larger version)

Despite higher-than-average snowfall totals so far this winter, last week’s near-record-high temperatures led to many people getting an early jump on spring cleanup around the yard or burning trash and debris they weren’t allowed to burn during the drought of 2010.
Unfortunately, coupled with high winds and dry surface conditions, that also led to an unusually high number of field fires across Harrison County.
Between last Tuesday at noon and Monday afternoon, there were at least 29 field fires in Harrison County that kept volunteer departments busy from north to south and east to west. It’s believed to have ranked among the county’s most field fires in a six-day span in at least a decade.
‘I think it was a combination of a bunch of things, unfortunately,’ chief Tony Combs, of the Lanesville Volunteer Fire Department, said. ‘A lot of the grass was already dead due to the dry conditions we had last fall, and the fact that we didn’t have any rain or snow for a while, and then we had sun and a light breeze that blew and dried out light grass and light brush.
‘People got out and were burning things they couldn’t burn last fall due to the burn ban,’ he said. ‘In fact, I had a couple of people tell me that’s exactly why they were burning things. That was OK, but conditions were favorable for fire spread and they simply weren’t prepared for it.’
Combs said he understood.
‘They couldn’t burn last fall, but people didn’t realize just how conditions were conducive to fire spread and didn’t take proper precautions,’ he said. ‘It was all unintentional. They weren’t paying attention to the fires like they should have. No one had a hose or a rake, or bucket of water or other type of extinguisher.’
Last Tuesday, an elderly Corydon man was burned when he was attempting to burn sheathing off wiring, which set off a field fire in the process.
The next day, several acres of a field and dozens of trees were torched when a woman was burning used disposable diapers along Hillcrest Drive in Mauckport. Winds spread the fire away from the woman’s mobile home and into an open field.
The Harrison County Highway Department was called and a county front-loader was used to knock down burned trees along Hillcrest. The fire’s heat may have led to the rupture of a hydraulic line on the tractor. One large tree had to be felled into the roadway, and the front-loader blew a right front tire while pushing debris to the side of the road.
On Thursday, a car fire near the 109-mile marker of westbound Interstate 64 sparked a grass fire.
There were six field fires Saturday, mostly around the Corydon area.
Combs reminds people that if they are going to burn a brush pile, they can’t do it inside most town limits (most towns have ordinances against burning brush), and controlled burns are not allowed at night. Outside of town limits, residents should call Harrison County Dispatch (738-2195, option 1) and report a controlled burn. They’ll need to give their address, how long the burn will be and then call back in when the fire is extinguished.
‘They’ll also need to attend the fire ‘ don’t let it burn and go back inside ‘ and they should have some type of extinguisher handy,’ Combs said.