TRAIN SPARKS FIRE, BURNS ROUGHLY 300-350 ACRES
A train heading west near Otis last Thursday has claimed responsibility for approximately 300-350 acres burned. The Otis Volunteer Fire Department received a call of a grass fire along the tracks between Hyde and County Road VV shortly before 3:30 p.m. As the train continued west, the extreme temperatures (over 100 degrees) and dry conditions caused the fire to chase the train. It was soon apparent that mutual aid was needed and at 3:35, the Akron and Yuma Volunteer Fire Departments were also paged out. The train finally came to a stop near Platner, and Akron picked up the fire west of County Road MM, just outside of Platner, and worked the fire to the east. Yuma continued to work the fire from the east, moving west. Otis crews concentrated on areas near the town of Otis. The fires, on both sides of the tracks in some areas, were kept to just grass and stubble. An estimated 10 or more fires burned by the initial sparks. With the three departments working toward each other, everything was contained by about 6:30 or 6:45 p.m. The Yuma Department left the scene, while Akron and Otis were still in the mop up stage. During mop up, fire crews noticed smoke building back to the east around Highway 34 and County Road SS. Units were sent back to check the scene and before they arrived, wind had picked up and a full-blown fire had engulfed, pushing everything back toward the west. The second fire spread into a wheat field belonging to Monte Willeke and crossed over a county road and into more stubble.
Because the second fire was so intense and spreading so quickly, the YVFD was called back to the scene. Fire crews worked together to stop the fire at County Road PP between 7:30 and 8 p.m. The fire was contained not only to the efforts of the fire departments, but several local farmers who brought in tractors and discs and water tenders brought in by Washington County. Multiple offers were also made by CHS and area farmers to bring more water, but luckily it wasn't needed. CDOT and local law enforcement also closed Highway 34 twice due to heavy smoke and detoured traffic north around the highway. During the efforts to contain the fire, a passing motorist, Dusty Birge of SkyFire Consulting and UAV Recon, stopped to ask the AVFD if he could use his drone to assist in locating hot spots. Akron crews quickly obliged, and the drone, equipped with a thermal imaging camera, was used to check for hot spots after the fire was fully contained. The aerial video of the burn area can be viewed on the Akron News-Reporter's Facebook page. Insurance representatives for the railroad were on scene the following day, after immediately taking responsibility for the fires. Any farmers or ranchers in Washington County who are willing to help out in an emergency are asked to email the Washington County Emergency Manager at email@example.com. Please include your name, phone number, location in the county and the type of equipment you have (tractor-disc, water tank with gallons, etc.) A resource database will be compiled and then shared with all Washington County fire departments.