Firefighters in Plymouth County. (Photo by Dennis Morrice)

Firefighters in Plymouth County. (Photo by Dennis Morrice)

Tomorrow is the deadline for fire departments in rural Iowa to seek state grants to buy equipment to fight fires in farm fields and timber areas. Gail Kantak, the fire supervisor for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says this is the time of year over-heated combines start a fire.

“Pay attention to sparks and hot spots especially when you’re out in that tinderbox of fuel in your corn and beans,” Kantak says. “It can lead to a big problem.”

On Monday afternoon, two fire fighters in Scott County were treated for smoke inhalation after two fires swept through about 2000 acres of eastern Iowa farm ground. Later Monday afternoon in northwest Iowa, a semi was destroyed in a field fire near Fostoria. Kantak says grain bins are unfortunately fertile ground for fires, too, and a lit light bulb touching the grain can spark a fire.

“Also keep in mind that the dust created by the grain as it’s filling is combustible as well,” Kantak says, “so just be really careful with those things and keep the electricity off in the bin as much as you can.”

Iowa fire departments that serve communities with a population under 10,000 are eligible for Volunteer Fire Assistance Grants. The grants of up to $3500 provide matching funds to buy fire fighting equipment “to save lives and protect property in rural areas.” In addition, the fire program staff in the Department of Natural Resources offers courses for volunteer fire fighters in Iowa to teach tactics for putting out fires in fields and other wild lands.

(Additional reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)