LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) - Central City Fire Chief James O’Leary said in the past two weeks he has seen 8 to 10 brush fires. That is double the typical amount for this time of year.
“It’s dry and when you get winds like we've had, it makes it very difficult to keep control of them. We don’t mind people burning as long as they do it safely,” O’Leary said. “Guys get tired. The more you have, the more tired they get, and when they just keep coming back to back, it becomes an issue of fatigue.”
Central City helped with a major brush fire in Prairieburg on April 27. Volunteer Firefighter Jim Greif had to go to the hospital after being the first one on the scene.
“I see it coming across the field. I turn around come back and got a firetruck, and by the time I got there it had cross the highway and headed toward the neighbors set of buildings.” Greif said. “I was by myself for a few minutes there, trying to do more than I should have, and obviously I got overheated and inhaled a little too much smoke, and it was no permanent damage.”
He said rural departments struggle with a low numbers of volunteers during the day making fires like the one on April 27, harder to fight.
“Things are so dry right now, and the wind was so fast, it just got out of control beyond anyone’s imagination,” Greif said. "Luckily we have mutual aid with all the fire departments around us, which we ended up calling that day.”
O’Leary said it is important for those planning burns to be cautious. He said everyone should read their burn permit, avoid setting fires on windy days, and make sure to watch it.
"Remember to call your fire department. No matter what district you live in, or where you live. Call your fire department and let them know you are doing it. That way they're a little bit more prepared and maybe they can offer to come out and help,” O’Leary said.
Greif said the landowner in Prarieburg followed all of the rules. He said the wind forced the fire to rekindle and it got out of hand. However, keeping the fire department in the loop can prevent damage.