Grass Fire Fears are on the Rise
By Jill Kasparie, Reporter
JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa - Eastern Iowa is dry, and every day more and more people are looking at the sky, hoping for rain.
That group now includes firefighters. Fields and prairies are dry, and grass fires are starting to spark in the area. Fire Departments across Eastern Iowa are more than ready for some rain, but since that's not happening, they said they are ready for grass fires.
The North Liberty Fire Department said it has already responded to five grass fires in the last couple of months. Crews have a special “grass rig” for those calls.
"You can actually drive and the water will spray out the front nozzle,” said North Liberty Fire Captain Chris Kochanny.
Down the road, the Coralville Fire Department is seeing the same trend. Both departments agree on the culprit.
"Discarded smoking materials is the biggest threat right now,” Coralville Assistant Fire Chief Orey Schwitzer said.
"If a discarded cigarette lands in some dry grass, with the way the wind has been blowing in the last couple of days and the low humidity, it can have a grass fire take off really fast on you,” Cpt. Kochanny said.
It only takes seconds for the fire to ignite a dry patch of grass. Fires from discarded cigarettes often happen along area roads. Just last week, Coralville crews fought a grass fire on I-380.
"Traffic has to slow down," Assistant Fire Chief Orey Schwitzer said. "Any time traffic slows down you have the potential for an accident. If there's enough smoke, of course it can impede the traffic flow.”
While the number of fires is already starting to climb, firefighters said they're even more worried about the fall.
"In the fire service everybody is talking about what this fall is going to look like if we don't get some rain or measurable rain anyways. Especially as the crops start to dry out more and get into that harvest season we could end up with a lot of larger grass fires,” Assistant Fire Chief Schwitzer said.
Firefighters said they're also responding to homes and stores where people have discarded cigarettes in mulch or planters. Those are dry too, and can cause fires.
Crews said whether it's along a highway or in a planter, flames can very easy grow and spread to a building and cause an even bigger problem.
What's On KCRG