Fires Scorch Brush, Fields

I made the first truck out on the brush fire I described in this article. I probably should have stayed home after a chiropractor appointment a few hours before, but – and it’s not politically correct to admit this – I really love fighting brush fires. That doesn’t make setting a fire and then walking away from it any smarter. (This fire was actually very similar to a larger one that I describe in Storm Chaser.)

Two fire departments were needed to control a brush fire that scorched about ten acres southeast of Albion Thursday. It was one of nine ground cover fires reported to the Noble County Sheriff’s Department between Wednesday evening and late Friday.

The fire began at a home that was under construction near 0650 N 350 E. A contractor had reportedly tried to burn a brush pile, and while he was away for a short time the pile blazed up, with sparks and radiant heat spreading it to nearby grass. By the time a neighbor noticed the blaze at about 3:36 p.m. flames had spread into a surrounding field of set-aside land.

The fire crossed a fence row and burned into another field of set-aside land, charring trees and posts as it went and causing wind-blown flame fronts that at some points towered over the heads of firefighters. Albion firefighters initially responded, then called for trucks and manpower from Avilla to assist.

It took about forty-five minutes for firefighters manning three four wheel drive brush trucks and three other vehicles to bring the fire under control, and the last unit didn’t clear the scene for an hour and a half. Firefighters were hampered by changing winds and soft ground that left the Avilla brush truck stuck for a time, but no injuries were reported and no property damage was done beyond some destroyed fence posts.

The only other damage reported as a result of last week’s ground cover fires was near Cromwell, where a utility pole had to be replaced after it caught fire early Saturday. Someone burned off a ditch row along CR 200 N, near 1000 W, but left before making sure the fire was completely out.

It wasn’t: The base of a Noble REMC utility pole caught fire, and by the time it was noticed at about 1:28 a.m. Saturday had burned almost completely through. Cromwell firefighters arrived to discover the pole leaning over, supported only by power lines that luckily didn’t break from the stress. They extinguished the flames, and an REMC crew came out to replace the pole.

The Albion Fire Department snuffed out a similar fire at the base of a pole along River Road, near CR 50 W, but in that case they put the flames out before the utility pole was seriously damaged. That call came in at 9:21 p.m. Sunday, after dead grass there dried out enough to burn despite previous rains.

Albion firefighters also extinguished a grass fire Wednesday near 2852 W 200 N. On Thursday Noble Township and Cromwell fire units were kept hopping when two field fires were reported within eight minutes of each other, one on Knapp Lake Road and the other less than two miles away, near the south side of Knapp Lake.

Orange Township, Ligonier, Johnson Township, and Kendallville fire trucks also responded to brush and field fires during the period, before rain came in Friday evening to put the spring wildland fire season on temporary hold.