Grass fire reports roll in

By Sarah Kessinger
Marysville Advocate – April 3, 2014
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – April 30, 2014

Frankfort volunteer firefighters battled a dozen grass fires in southeast Marshall County in March, including back-to-back blazes this past weekend.

“We were out all day Sunday,” said Frankfort Fire Chief Paul Tommer. “I wish people would be very careful with their burning while it so dry.”

On Sunday, Frankfort’s department, which has 33 firefighters, called in Axtell and Centralia departments for backup as pasture fires got out of hand. After responding, both Axtell and Centralia had to return to their home areas to fight local grass fires.

Drought and high winds have combined this spring to create prime conditions for fast-moving blazes.

Many of the fires started as controlled, reported burns, but gusty winds fanned the flames out of control or re-stoked leftover embers a day or more later.

“It seems like it’s been harder this year than it has in the past,” Tommer said.

No structural damage has been reported from any of the blazes and no injuries, fire chiefs say.

“We don’t have as big a problem here as in the southern part of the county. They have those big pastures down there,” said Marysville Fire Chief Dave Richardson.

The public is asked to always call the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department to report a planned burn and then again to report when it is out.

The reports have been very helpful, Richardson said, in helping firefighters to find blazes that unexpectedly spread.

This year’s weather makes it even more important to know when fires are started.

“It’s unusually dry,” Richardson said. “We had one the other day with 50 mile-per-hour gusts, and when that wheat stubble was gone, the ground beneath it was so powdery.”

Dane Parker, Waterville Fire Chief, said his crew fought about seven fires on pasture and farmland in March.

“Normally they stop at the tree line, but this year, it keeps burning through the leaves and trees,” Parker said.

“People have it under control, it just gets away from them and takes off. The wind has been bad, and the smoke. You can’t see where the rest of the fire is. Smoke is so dense you have to drive around and look for the fire.”

This week’s rain forecasts may offer relief.

“Here in the next couple of days we’ve got some chances, hopefully,” Parker said. “The green grass is coming on so I guess the worst is probably over.”

Richardson said he’s appreciated the help from landowners, many of whom have burned pasture for years without problem but are facing an unusually dry and windy spring.

“These farmers have been a great help. When I get out there, I can figure out how to get to a field with their help. They know the entrances,” he said.

The Marysville Volunteer Fire Department responded to four fires this past week.

The fire department was called to a pasture fire at about 1 p.m. on March 26 at 14th and Osage roads. The fire burned off about 50 acres, according to Dennis Rockwell, Assistant Fire Chief. The brush pile fire got into 50 mph winds.

Shortly after the fire was extinguished, the fire department was called to a second pasture fire at Seventh Road and Matador Road that also burned off about 50 acres. Firemen put out the fire at about 5:45 p.m.

On Sunday, the fire department responded to a fire at 601 S. Sixth St. at about 1 p.m. when a pile of leaves was ignited by a cigarette. High winds picked up the leaves, spreading them under the deck. Latticework on the side of the deck was burned, Rockwell said, but no other damages were reported.

The department was called to Eighth Street and Jayhawk Road at about 8:45 a.m. Monday where a controlled burn from Saturday had rekindled as wind caused downed trees to catch fire.

Another fire on Monday was about seven miles south of Marysville along West River Road.

“We could use some good rain,” Richardson said.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster