The Speed of a Spark: Firefighters Talk Dry Conditions
By Chris Earl, Reporter
MOUNT VERNON, Iowa – As fire crews and investigators walked amid the charred remains of Wednesday’s major house and garage fire north of Mount Vernon, the hot and dry days that have filled most of Eastern Iowa this month have not led to any official burn bans yet.
A check of the State Fire Marshal’s website reports no counties with a burn ban in place.
“Right now, people don’t realize, though things are green how alive it is,” said Mount Vernon Fire Chief Dan Gaines. Gaines said at least seven fire departments spent hours working the scene at Wednesday’s fire on Highway 1 north of town. “With this house fire yesterday, we were having problems with the grass catching fire just north of the house and the trees also.”
This comes as Wednesday was a day full of major fires in large cities and rural areas, like the Mount Vernon fire. An early morning fire in Waterloo on 936 W. 7th Street led to crews surrounding the house, engulfed in flames, for hours. Investigators say that fire was intentionally set.
A Wednesday afternoon fire in Cedar Rapids has been called “suspicious” by investigators. This fire, at 1546 A Avenue NE, kept crews busy on another hot and dry afternoon.
Regardless of the cause that lead to the fire trucks responding, fighting an actual fire in 90 degree heat requires a strict awareness of time and the amount of firefighters on scene.
“Generally about 20 minutes and then they have to go to rehab,” said Gaines, on the length a firefighter can spend working active flames on a hot day. “Then they get cooled down, get water to be able to function again.”
In Iowa City, the department’s firefighters have been working the landfill fire for the past three weeks. Chief Andy Rocca said the surrounding rural fire departments have not been calling for a “burn ban” just yet.
“So far, so good but if we continue in this hot and dry cycle, that will change.”
Both Gaines and Rocca call for common sense for people with their outdoor activities that involve lighting something on fire, especially with smoking or barbecuing.
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