400-acre wildfire in Calcedeaver causes home evacuations

400-acre wildfire in Calcedeaver causes home evacuations

16 January 2011

published by blog.al.com

USA — A controlled burn in northwest Mobile County turned into a wildfire covering about 400 acres that volunteer fire fighters battled for much of the day.

Officials ordered that 25 homes just north of Coy Smith Highway be evacuated during the fire, which started just before noon and lasted until almost 7 p.m., said Andrew Byrd with the Calcedeaver Volunteer Fire Department, who served as incident commander.

No one was injured.

The fire got within inches of some of the homes, Byrd said. But the only property that was damaged was a small storage shed.

“It was within two inches,” Byrd said. “We were literally stomping it out trying to get it away from a propone tank at one house. We were sure it was going to get that house.”

About 10 horses were in danger at one point. Byrd said firefighters opened a gate to let six of them flee to safety. A veterinarian checked the horses out, and they are all OK, he said.

About 65 firefighters from 10 volunteer departments in Mobile and Washington counties worked to put out the fire.

The wildfire started north of Coy Smith Highway, near Tom Hopkins Road, when a landowner who had obtained a burn permit lost control of a fire he had set to make hay, Byrd said.

“He didn’t expect it to get so big. He told us, ‘I can’t stop it. I tried. I tried and I liked to have gotten burned,’” Byrd said. “The wind changed fast, and before you knew it, it got completely out of control and turned into a raging wildfire.”

Byrd said residents of seven homes refused to evacuate, so firefighters parked trucks in front of their houses, “just in case.”

Besides the wildfire, eight other smaller fires and other emergency calls came in throughout the day, stretching the firefighters thin, he said.

In the wildfire, “we could’ve gotten to the point where we had 10 structure fires at one time, but we remained calm, cool and collected and did what we needed to do,” Byrd said. “We had minimal damage, all things considered. There’s timber lost, and as bad as that was, at least that can be replanted.”

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