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Archive for Sunday, February 1, 2009

Warm weather, wind spur grass fires

February 1, 2009

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A brush with spring Saturday brought with it a rash of grass fires in Douglas County.

The number stood at eight Saturday afternoon, a figure that is more akin to springtime responses.

Fire crews from area townships fought the majority of the blazes.

“I think it’s a combination of the warm weather … and of course the high winds,” said Mark Bradford, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical chief. “It’s significantly dry outside. We haven’t had measurable precipitation in a while, so the wind dries out the surface grasses, and if there’s any type of ignition, it just takes off.”

The warm weather may have tempted people to attempt controlled burns or to grill food outside.

Even an errant cigarette butt could ignite grass, Bradford said.

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Battalion Chief Rob Kort said his crews battled two grass fires Saturday, and said grass fires were much more likely during the spring.

“It’s the weekend,” he said. “It’s a warm day and people decide to do some yard work, and burn some brush, but with the wind so high, it’s dangerous to do that.”

The National Weather Service declared an extreme fire danger index for the area Friday, and despite a burn ban within Lawrence city limits, some people in the county — which was not under such a ban — may have taken advantage of temperatures that jumped to 70 degrees Saturday.

No major damage to property was reported, and mounds of dirt piled around a patch of scorched grass on the 1600 block of N. 1600 Road spared a large area of farmland.

Kort said that fire may have been due to fireworks.

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