The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 27, 2014

Grass fires keep departments scrambling

— Sunday’s mild, calm and sunny weather tempted numerous area residents to take a match to their burn piles and leaves.

But when wind popped up later in the day, their embers — coupled with dry conditions and low humidity — kept fire departments scrambling.

“We started at 2:30 yesterday afternoon and got our last call at 10:11,” said Carl Junction fire Chief Bill Dunn on Monday morning.

The department received nine fire calls during that time.

“Most of them were where people had been burning yesterday afternoon,” Dunn said. “Then wind came up yesterday night. Their embers got away from them and caught the grass on fire.”

The last call of the day reported the biggest fire, also caused by wind, which between 9 and 10 p.m. began gusting to about 30 mph.

“It was an electric line that blew against another one, and it arced and shorted, and when it fell it caught the grass on fire,” Dunn said.

That fire burned a couple of acres along Pennell Street, just west of the railroad tracks at the city limits on Highway 171.

“We were out there for three hours,” Dunn said.

Michael White, assistant chief of the Redings Mill Fire Department, said his department responded to calls right after the wind picked up about 9:45 p.m. Sunday.

“They were small, and no structures were harmed,” he said. He said the fires were caused by embers from burn piles or leaf burning earlier Sunday, or perhaps the day before.

“People will put the fire out and walk away from it, but there’s still heat and coals, and unless they wet it down and stir it up, it can catch,” White said.

“Right now we’re in a pattern where we get a dry day with southwesterly winds, which we’re getting every two or three days now, that are 15 to 30 miles an hour. But it’s preceded by a nice, calm day, like it was Sunday. The humidity has been as low as 18 percent, and really with anything below 45 percent, we really don’t suggest anyone burn at all.”

White said some of the fires to which his department responded ignited 24 to 48 hours after a property owner had been burning.

The Oronogo Fire Department responded to two grass fires Sunday afternoon and Sunday night in which wind and burn piles played a factor.

Red flag warnings

AREA FIRE DEPARTMENTS continue to post red flag warnings against burning and outdoor fires.

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