Now is the time to watch for grass fires

Nowis the time to watch for grass fires

9 March 2006

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Despite recent rainy weather firefighters say this is prime time for grass fires.

“All the dead grass and vegetation from the winter makes good fuel this time of year,” said Fishers Fire Department Deputy Fire Marshal Ron Lipps. Temperatures are warming and days are becoming more breezy.

So far this year Fishers firefighters have responded to four grass fires. One, just last weekend, involved straw strewn on the ground that ignited a house under construction on Spruance Court.

“Usually you can tell when it gets into February and things warm up a little bit because you see a bump in grass fires,” Lipps said. “When you get someone who is burning trash or flicking a cigarette at the wrong time there is plenty of fuel out there to catch and take off.”

While there isn’t as much rural land left in Fishers as in other parts of the county, there is still the danger that a grass fire will spread to a structure.

At White River Township Fire Department, Chief Phil Achenbach said his department, which serves a more rural area, had one grass fire in February and recently assisted the Jackson Township Fire Department with another one.

“Farmers will start burning off their fence rows and hedge banks and stuff like that, so you’ll have some,” he said. “We haven’t had that much problem out here.”

Achenbach said White River Township firefighters respond to between five and 10 fires per year, most of them in the fall. Capt. Todd Burtron at the Westfield Fire Department said they have not had any grass fire incidents this year, but he agreed with Achenbach that the busiest time of the year for grass fires is the summer and fall months.

Lt. Rick Russell at the Noblesville Fire Department said there have been two grass fires this year. Last year Noblesville firefighters were called out to a total of 12 field or grass fires.

“The big thing that we struggle with in the spring time is mulch fires,” he said, “where all this growth that has taken place here in Noblesville around businesses, they put mulch down instead of rock or things of that nature.”

In 2005 the department responded to 20 mulch fires.

“We’ve been pretty lucky where it hasn’t crawled up the side of a building and caught it on fire,” he said.

Russell said mulch is often put over the tops of lights or is laid down too deeply and combusts spontaneously. A cigarette carelessly flicked out the window also causes big problems if it lands in a mulched landscape.

“We’re getting into that season,” he said.

Lipps said this week’s rain will probably hold down the threat of grass and mulch fires for the time being, until the vegetation dries out again.

“If we get another dry spell between now and when things green back up, be careful,” he said. “Try not to burn trash, dispose of your cigarettes properly and just be careful.”


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