Smokey Barn News Wednesday March 12, 2014 Robertson County, Tenn.
91 Fires In Two Months? What’s Going On?
UPDATED March 17 (See below) As you know, Smokey tracks the news in and around Robertson County. Lately we have been hearing a high number of calls going out for brush or grass fires. When we heard five calls in one day we decided to do a little investigating. What we found out was that in just the last two months in Robertson County we have had 91 grass or brush related fires.
That number does not include structure fires, just fires in wooded areas as well as brush or grass fires. That’s 91 fires in 74 days, that’s better than one fire every single day in the county. That number seems all the more shocking when you consider that we are in the dead of winter, a winter in which we have had our share of rain and even ice storms, not a time you would expect to have many grass fires. We spoke to several fire officials and the consensus was that people may be thinking that because the ground is wet from all the rain and snow that the grass is also wet, not true. Though the ground can be soaked and even muddy, the foliage on top is dry as a bone.
Hummer fire in R.C. last year that officials say was caused by the Catalytic Converter igniting the grass and then Hummer on fire. (Click on photo for a full VIDEO report)
We went looking for a common cause and found a couple of surprises: Cigarettes are a common cause in Robertson County with all of our open farm land and rural areas, tossing your cigarette out the window is very dangerous. Another one that was surprising to us were sparks or hot embers from vehicle breaking systems. Not much we can do about that one. Another is catalytic converters or vehicle exhaust systems. This one you can do something about. If you take your vehicle off the main road into tall grass be careful you are not lighting the grass on fire with your exhaust system. Catalytic converters can exceed temperatures of 1200 to 1400 F. The next one (and probably more common) is intentionally set fires. Always check with your local fire department to see if a permit is needed, even if you just plan to burn leaves. Burn permits are there to protect the public during very dry times. Though it may not seem like it (with all the rain and snow we have had lately) we are in a very dry period right now. If you are planning on burning leaves or brush you will need a permit, even in a barrel. Back in November a family in Cedar Hill was burning leaves in a barrel and lost their pool and an out building. Luckily for them the Pleasant View Volunteer Fire Department was able to stop the fire short of their home. Click here for that video report.
Smokey did a report back on March 6th on what is legal to burn in Tennessee. It’s a good idea to know to avoid potentially paying a $25,000 fine. Click here for that report. Out of the 91 fires contained in the report below, most were kept relatively small but that’s only because our county Firefighters have the skills, training and equipment to get the fires under control quickly. Without them and their training homes or other structures would be lost every week. As an example of how dry this time of year is, according to Springfield Fire Chief Jimmy Hamill, Springfield fire crews responded to a total of 17 grass or brush related fires from March 12th, 2013 to March 12th, 2014. In other words- the entire rest of the year (9.5 months) they responded to only three additional fires in that category. Hamill also said the worst year on record for grass and brush related fires was a total of 92 calls in the calender year 1980. Remember that Springfield city limits has a smaller percentage of open grass land than most of the other 10 municipalities in Robertson County.
UPDATED: March 17. Burn victim dies.
Below is the full report we obtained from local officials on the number of calls and which agencies responded. As far as what you can do? Well just remember that even though the ground is wet, the grass and brush is very dry. Remember that even if you have a permit to burn, a small gust of wind can quickly transplant your fire elsewhere. It’s also important to remember that fires (big or small) are dangerous. On Monday March 10th a man in White House unintentionally caught his clothes on fire while he was burning leaves. He ended up with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over most of his body and was lifeflighted to Vanderbilt’s burn unit. The gentleman’s name is Robert A. Blair 84, of White House and we are sad to report that he died on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Click here for Blair’s ObituarySmokey would like to convey our deepest sympathy to the Blair family in their time of loss.
CLOCK TO ENLARGE
Jim Ball reporting Smokey Barn News
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