A field fire, started by a piece of farm equipment, fueled by extremely dry stubble, and pushed by 30 mile per hour winds burned an estimated 400 acres in Daviess County Wednesday.
The fire was reported around 3 p.m. Wednesday. Plainville and Washington Township Fire Departments tried to contain it but before it was over every volunteer fire department in Daviess County and a couple from Knox County were called in to try and put down the fire.
“With the dry conditions we have had, this really is the nightmare that we had been worried about,” said Daviess County EMS Director Scott Myers.
“With that wind the firefighters couldn’t keep up with it from behind, and we couldn’t safely get in front of it to stop it,” added Washington Township Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tony Wichman.
The fire began near CR 675 N., just east of Harbstreit Hill when a mechanical problem in a combine caused it to get hot and caught some of the material being expelled on fire.
While fire departments fought the blaze with water, farmers in the area brought out tractors with discs to try and create fire breaks and limit the spread of the fire.
“I want to thank all of the fire departments that showed up, but the true heroes in stopping this fire were the farmers and their equipment,” said Plainville Assistant Fire Chief Dave Mallett. “The farmers showed up from everywhere. We didn’t have to call them or direct them they just did what had to be done.”
Almost all of the crops that would have been in the path of the fire were already harvested. The farmers turned over the tender dry field stubble and created fire blocks. They successfully managed to squeeze down the burnable material along the fire trail that ran for almost three miles to the north and one mile wide.
“The only thing that could have made this fire worse would have been if it had managed to get into some of the houses out there,” said Myers.
“It came close,” said Wichman. “There were several houses in the path that we all worked together and managed to save without any damage.”
While most of the fire departments were able to wrap-up fighting the field fire after about five hours. Plainville fire fighters stayed on until around 1 a.m.
“Some of the fire got into the woods,” said Mallett. “We spent most of the night putting out that part of the fire and keeping an eye on the rest. We finally got all of it out.”
Firefighters were assisted in fighting the woods fire with a bulldozer that was brought in to create a fire break.
Unfortunately, one fire fighter was injured while fighting the blaze.
“We had a firefighter from Montgomery that stumbled and fell into some hot embers,” said Mallett. “He had some burns on his hands and arms.”
That firefighter was taken by ambulance to Daviess Community Hospital.
Plainville fire fighters say they truly appreciated the support they received.
“The farmers saw the fire and they just showed up,” said Mallett. “That is what is great about living here.”
While the massive fire just south of Plainville was burning, another fire call came in near the WestGate Tech Park in Daviess County.
“Richland-Taylor got right on that,” said Myers. “They managed to keep it from spreading.”
The fire has been followed by a cloudy, humid cool day. Officials warn though that even with more the rain threat of fires will remain.
“We are still in a moderate drought,” said Myers. “It will take a lot more rain to get us out of this. The long-range forecast through the end of the month calls for at most one-and-a-half inches of rain over 10 days. With all of the plants beginning to die and the conditions we’ve had that is not going to be enough.”