The long cold winter has begun to give way to spring, but it is still causing problems. Area fire departments say that since the last of the snow melted they have been plagued with a new problem, grass fires. Washington Township Volunteer firefighters have had calls to three fires in the last five days. Harrison Township has fought another grass fire, Madison Township at least two and Cannelburg was called to three in one day.
“The cold weather this winter just killed all of the vegetation,” said Washington Township Volunteer Fire Chief Tony Wichman. “It is all really dry. You can have places where the ground is mud, but the dead grass above it will burn.”
“People don’t realize how dry it is and the state the grass is in,” added Washington Fire Chief Dave Rhoads. “Once that grass catches fire and gets some wind it will really run.”
Firefighters say that so far they have been able to get to the fires before they did any structural damage. “We have had some close calls,” said Wichman. “We were called to the Oakwood Trailer Court where someone had been burning trash and it spread into an area and was threatening a line of trailers. We had another call on Tuesday where the fire was spreading toward May’s Gas.”
Firefighters say other factors than the dry conditions are part of the grass fire problem. “People are getting out now and trying to clean up their property and they’ll pile stuff up and burn it,” said Wichman. “We also have the winds kicking up now that we are getting into spring.”
“Windy and dry is a bad combination for fire,” added Rhoads. “We know the county has had a real problem with it. It isn’t quite so bad in town.”