A massive fire along Highway 34 near Red Oak illustrates how quickly a grass fire can escalate in current conditions. Montgomery County Emergency Management Coordinator Brian Hamman says fire fighters arrived on the scene shortly after a small fire in a ditch was reported late Sunday afternoon.
“Within a matter of two to three minutes the fire grew to the point where it was running north and there was no way to stop it,” Hamman says. “At that point, we made the decision to start evacuating homes and call for additional mutual aid resources to the scene.”
Hamman says a couple of farmers were already on the scene with discs, trying to cut fire breaks, when the first fire engines arrived. “The fire grew rapidly and very intensively,” Hamman says.
Nearly 12 dozen fire fighters and more then five dozen vehicles from 18 area fire departments ultimately responded.
“A very massive response, especially for our area, unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Hamman says. “Obviously, early on, we didn’t know if we were going to get it stopped.”
Hamman credits the dozen or so farmers who joined in the fire fight.
“I can’t stress enough how beneficial it is to have the farmers out there with us with tractors and discs, happy to help, happy to put their machinery at risk for us and for their neighbors,” Hamman says, “because, honestly, it was the tractors and discs that saved the western part of the county.”
The fire consumed 750 acres. Hamman says it was an intense scene with extreme winds whipping up smoke and dust — and spreading the fire. “Unfortunately we did have two fire fighters who sustained very minor burns as a result of their active fire fighting efforts, but thankfully no other injuries.”
There was a grass fire in the same area two weeks ago and investigators believe strong winds on Sunday may have rekindled it.
(By Mike Peterson, KMA, Shenandoah)