Rash of fires keeps AFD busy

Posted February 5, 2014 at 2:40 pm


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High winds and a rash of outdoor brush and field fires prompted an outdoor burn ban being declared in Clinton County this past weekend.

Clinton County Judge/Executive Lyle Huff issued the ban late Saturday morning, February 1, citing the brush and field fires that had been occurring, apparently due in part to high winds causing the fires that were set outdoors spreading to fields, woodlands and structures, causing several thousand dollars of loss and damage to buildings, barns and even vehicles.

The ban was short-lived as it was lifted on Sunday morning, following the onset of a full day and night of rain and freezing precipitation.

The fires on Saturday, however, did keep the Albany Fire Department and surrounding departments busy into the nighttime hours. According to fire chief Robert Roeper, a total of 12 fire calls were dispatched throughout the day and evening on Saturday alone.

The majority of blazes reported came as the result of people burning trash and debris outside in windy conditions and the winds caused the fires to spread quickly.

Perhaps the most major fire reported began around mid-morning on the Piercy Road near the 76 Falls Country Club at the residence of Rick Thrasher. According to Roeper, the fire at that location apparently was the result of a neighbor burning trash outdoors when the winds caused the fire to spread.

That fire did some outer damage to a portion of the Thrasher home as well as destroying two barns, a water house structure and also totaled a tractor, pickup truck and camper that was on the property. Fireman were on the scene of that fire for about two hours, according to the fire chief, who also said that several acres of property was damaged in the same blaze when the fire spread across a field.

Prior to the fire at the Thrasher residence, fires had been reported in the Seventy-Six Community and on Bald Rock Mountain near Hwy. 200 close to the Wayne County line, where the later fire damaged four to five acres of woodland.

Other fires reported as a direct result of outdoor burning–which eventually prompted the temporary burn ban–was located at Sunny Acres off Goodman Road and Hwy. 738 and in the Hogback Community, among others.

“The main reason for most of the fires was people burning trash that got out of hand due to the winds,” Roeper said.

Late Saturday night, a small truck belonging to Gary Wallace, and three to four acres of land, was damaged by a fire on Race Track Road. The cause of that fire is unknown, and the truck was located in the middle of a field when the fire occurred, Roeper said.

Ironically, three out of town fire departments–Susie, Pickett County and Burkesville–were in Albany on Saturday for driver training and the other departments were on standby to aid the local fire department, but Roeper noted that Burkesville had several calls of their own in Cumberland County that day as well.

Other than the busy day the department had on the first day of the month, they responded to two separate, unrelated structure fires earlier in the week.

Last Tuesday night, January 28, the department responded to a house fire on North Hwy. 639 that caused significant damage to the residence.

Roeper said initial reports were that a couple of people may have been in the home at the time of the call, but said those individuals arrived later when firemen were battling the blaze, which began around 5:30 p.m. The home was being lived in by the Billy Collins family and no injuries were reported.

The fire chief said the fire may have started from an electric heater in the bathroom that was being used to keep water pipes from freezing. He went on to note that several people across the U.S. have lost their lives this winter in fires that were directly related to the extreme cold weather conditions.

On Friday morning around 11:30 a.m., January 31, a barn was destroyed by fire on the Tommy Jones property on North 127 and that fire may have also started due to electrical problems. One pig was killed in the barn fire but the department was able to save several other animals and kept the fire from spreading to other areas.

Roeper said he wished to thank several businesses for bringing food throughout the day on Saturday to the fire department for the firemen and others during the difficult time and expressed personal appreciation to all fire department members who took their personal time to work all day to fight the fires and help protect property and lives.