The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 12, 2014

Fast-moving fire burns 600 acres, damages buildings in Galena area

GALENA, Kan. — A fast-moving grass fire Sunday burned hundreds of acres north of Galena, and damaged at least two structures and a vehicle.

Galena fire Chief Bill Hall said there were no reports of any injuries. He said the fire likely started around noon as a result of a downed power line north of town.

“The fire was just jumping the roads so quickly because of the high winds,” Hall said. “It spread very quick through the fields. At that point, you just have to protect the houses in the path and be proactive.”

Firefighters from Galena, Columbus, Baxter Springs, Baker Township, Carl Junction, Mo., Asbury, Mo., and Redings Mill, Mo., were called in just before 1 p.m. to help battle the blaze.

“We needed their aid, and we had about 22 trucks from all over the area come,” Hall said. “We would not have been able to contain this without their help.”

Two structures at 506 Jackson Ave. were damaged in the fire.

Property owner Carolyn Williams said the structures were old garages used for storage. Williams’ car, which was adjacent to the garages, also was heavily damaged.

“I backed my car down a ways because we could see the fire off in the distance,” Williams said. “It moved so quickly, and it was up over the hill about a block away in 30 seconds. It was just that fast.”

Williams’ home is about 20 feet away from where the garages caught fire, but it was not damaged.

Julie Maus, spokeswoman for Empire District Electric Co., said a 69-kilovolt transmission line north of Galena broke loose in the high winds. At one point, about 900 Empire customers were without power, but that outage lasted only about 30 minutes, she said.

Additional utility poles were damaged, and a wide swath of land was left charred in the wake of the fire.

“There is probably a good 600 acres that were damaged,” Hall said. “We were lucky that we did not lose more buildings.”

Maus said there were smaller, scattered outages, including near Carl Junction and Diamond in Missouri, when high winds brought down other lines, but the service was quickly restored.

“They (crews) have been addressing those as the day goes on,” she said.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the Four-State Area through Sunday evening.

“There were sustained winds in the 30s; gusts were over 50 miles per hour,” said Mike Griffin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service station in Springfield, Mo.

Airports in Joplin, Mo., and Pittsburg each recorded 53 mph gusts, he said.

“That, combined with the relatively dry air, made for the rapid spread of fire that could get out of control,” he said.

Humidity was as low as 20 to 25 percent, the weather service reported.

No other major grass fires were reported Sunday in the region.

Fire danger

MIKE GRIFFIN, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service station in Springfield, said cold fronts are expected to push into the area this week, but they will be dry fronts with gusty winds. He said the fire danger could remain “above normal” for much of the coming week.

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