Landowners offers advice on out-of-control burns

By Jackie Taylor
Linn County News – March 19, 2014
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – March 24, 2014

Photo by Amber Coulter

Photo by Amber Coulter

Predicting a serious fire season this spring, Fire Chief Doug Barlet was not wrong when all county fire departments were called out fighting out-of-control grass fires last Thursday afternoon.

And, one landowner who set fire to his property and ended up with an out-of-control blaze offered advice to other would-be fire setters.

Mack Carlisle, who lives five miles west of Mantey in southwest Linn County, said he’d been part of Linn County his whole life. Though he moved to Kansas City with his family in the 1950s, he comes back to the county approximately 35 times a year to spend weekends on his acreage.

Carlisle, a retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager, said he experienced an out-of-control fire Thursday, despite having set hundreds of controlled burns over the past 30 years.

He explained that three of his friends, also retired project managers for the Corps, together with a combined field experience in burning of 150 years, had been involved in hundreds and hundreds of fires like the one they set Thursday.

“I’m still responsible for what goes on and I try to atone for my mistakes,” said Carlisle, referring to the fire that took approximately 300 acres rather than the 110 acres he owned and planned to burn.

“I felt it was going well, but the wind picked up,” he said. “We back-burned the fire before we head-burned it. We then took an hour lunch, and during that time things were happening–that was about 2 p.m.”

He said they returned from lunch and saw the fire had flared, cow chips were on fire, and it all added together to create “issues.”

“We shouldn’t have left the scene,” said Carlisle. “One hundred ten acres were set out, but it burned another 150 and another 80 before it was done.”

“Fortunately, we have credible neighbors who are more understanding than they should be,” he continued.

He explained that his neighbors are farmers and ranchers who are active in land management, and it’s nice to have neighbors not screaming for lawyers.

Carlisle said that he checked the weather forecast for Thursday and it looked favorable for burning, with winds up to 14 mph. In actuality, it wasn’t even close, with gusts at 25 mph and the wind continuing through to Friday morning.

“A person needs to go with what’s happening outside and not go with just the forecast,” said Carlisle.

He then gave kudos to the fire department and their handling of the blaze. He said it was a very dangerous situation and credits the firefighters with their professionalism.

“People still need to manage their land,” said Carlisle. “They can’t be afraid of doing it; people just need to get better at it.”

“We properly back-fired, but areas burned that have never burned before. It crossed creeks–the wind was double what was forecast, we really got nailed,” he said.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster