DNR Burn Damages Barn Buildings & Nearby Properties

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

UPDATE: A day after this story aired, the Iowa DNR admitted it did not follow protocol in checking with the National Weather Service regarding burn conditions in Benton County. The Iowa DNR say its staff checked on conditions in Johnson County but in Benton County. The Iowa DNR says the National Weather Service was not to blame for this fire.

VINTON, Iowa - A controlled burn got out of hand in Benton County on Friday, causing damage to properties nearby.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said its team started the burn on land near Vinton.

With dry, windy conditions, authorities put several burn bans in place across the state last week. The DNR decided to conduct a controlled burn in Benton County, anyway. According to the Department of Public Safety's website, Benton County did not have a ban at the time.

The flames got out of control and the DNR said the fire spread to three nearby properties. The department is conducting an investigation, looking into what happened. Authorities are also working to get compensation for those who were impacted by the fire.

For one man, though, it's time to pick up the pieces.

"I think how dumb can you be to build a fire on a day like that?" said Glen Dale Geiger.

Geiger doesn't even know where to start cleaning up. Friday's burn left a path of charred belongings.

"I don't really know where to go to from here," Geiger said.

Flames torched three of his farm buildings and equipment inside.

"My corn picker, corn planter, my baler, feed wagons, my other wagon sitting outside, my camper in the corn crib, snow blower, bicycles," Geiger said.

Not to mention his pride and joy, his 1960 convertible.

"It burned up exactly 54 years after the day I bought it," Geiger said.

According to neighbors, the flames spread quickly, burning fields, fence posts and trees for about a mile. The DNR said it had a plan in place and followed protocol. That includes a weather check-up right before the burn began.

"We called the National Weather Service to get the latest update on what the forecast was for the weather, and they gave us the wrong forecast," said DNR Spokesman Mick Klemesrud.

The DNR said it called the fire department when the team started to lose control of the burn. Now, it hopes to learn from this.

"Obviously we don't ever want this to go wrong, and we are going to find out what happened and we are going to incorporate that into our training," Kelmesrud said.

As for Glen Dale, he's baffled by what was lost, hoping this never happens again.

"I know people make mistakes, I've done them, but never something quite nothing like this, that's for sure," Geiger said.

KCRG reached out to the National Weather Service to get their side of the story, but they were unable to get back to us by the story's deadline.

No homes were damaged and no injuries were reported during the fire.

Neighbors said they were thankful for the hard work and quick response by several area firefighters.
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