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What Is Causing All The Field Fires In Lawrence County?

Last updated on Friday, March 6, 2009

(FORT RITNER) - Dry conditions seem to be at least part of the cause of the rash of field fires that have been affecting Lawrence County, especially in Guthrie Township.

Guthrie Township Fire Chief Brian Hutchinson tells WBIW News two of the fires he has had to deal with in recent days have been in the exact same field in Fort Ritner.

The most recent fire was yesterday morning in Fort Ritner, near Front Street, where winds were blowing toward the already burned section of the field, which helped keep the blaze manageable.

So far, Hutchinson says, the only real damage has come in the form of a car that was parked in a field that caught fire near Tunnelton, otherwise, no other damage has resulted, including farm crops.

The fires are, at least, partially caused by the very dry conditions on the ground in Lawrence County. Hutchinson says the winds lately, combined with the fact that it's still too early in the year for plant life to have "greened up," is the passive hazard. However, what is actually igniting the blazes is still unknown.

"These are just open fields with nothing around them, and they just mysteriously burst into flames!" the fire chief reports.

Hutchinson says conditions are dry enough that spare embers from yard fires, or even cigarette butts can start a fire, and with winds being a problem lately, flames are coming close to jumping into wooded areas.

Yesterday's blaze ignited sage brush along the nearby gravel road, which the chief says "goes up real good," causing flames he said got nearly 10-feet high. He also said they were fortunate the wind was blowing the direction it was, since otherwise it would have blown toward a wooded area and firefighters would have had a "big fire" to deal with.

So far, however, no one has been injured in any of the fires. Hutchinson ascribes that partially to the fact that they have been field fires that haven't put any homes or people in danger, which means fire crews are able to be more cautious and not as aggressive in extinguishing them.

Hutchinson says one big help is if people who burn yard waste and other controlled fires would call the sheriff's department to let them know.

You can call in controlled fires to the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department at 275-3316.

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