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Back burn halts 4-mile blaze

Staff writer

Ramona chief Nathan Brunner fought fire with fire Monday by setting a back burn ahead of a grass fire that scorched nearly four miles near Tampa.

Tampa, Durham, and Ramona departments were first on the scene to the blaze, which started as a ditch fire, but soon were joined by firefighters from Marion County’s task force, including nearly all county departments, plus Herington and Roxbury who struggled to battle the place in 55 mph winds.

Grass fires burned near Diamond Vista’s wind turbines but none were damaged, nor were any of its personnel or facilities in danger, company spokesman Matt Epting said.

Brunner and Hillsboro fire chief Ben Steketee, who were both in command of the fire fighting, asked twice for water drops from a tanker plane — but were told the aircraft was unavailable because it was being used to put out a large fire in Reno County.

That spurred the decision to get rid of the fire’s fuel by setting another fire, Brunner said.

“We had embers that were spotting ahead of the road that were creating new fires, and there was no way to catch it,” he said.

“We were using trucks and equipment to try to put it out, but the winds were actually making it more dangerous to put trucks near the flanks.”

Monday afternoon, crews set the backburn to the north of the blaze and let it burn until it ran into the main blaze to the south.

“The two fires met and shut the fuel off,” he said, adding that the southwest direction of the wind was predictable.

The help of area business also was a boon, Brunner said

Ag Services Inc. of Hillsboro bought a 7,000-gallon truck with water and Dickinson County Road and Bridge bought out a 5,000-gallon semi.

Although several structures were threatened by the blaze, not were damaged.

Firefighters remained on the scene about nine hours.

The hot, dry weather and a lot of available fuel in the grasslands contribute to dangerous fires, he said.

Anyone planning a controlled burn should be careful.

“Be aware of the days following your burn, not just the day you have it,” he said. “Please be aware that the next two or three days may not be ideal and your fire could reignite.”

Last modified April 1, 2021

 

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