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Field fires part of harvesting season

By Staff | Oct 15, 2010

A Badger Fire Department truck makes its way across a harvested field to extinguish flames in an Oct. 9 fire. According to area firefighters, blazes such as these are common during harvest, and can be prevented if controlled burns are attended at all times.

BADGER – In the past four days, Badger Fire Chief Glen Westling’s all-volunteer department has been dispatched to two field fires within its district in Webster County.

Unfortunately, Westling believes those two fires are just the first of many that they, and several other rural fire departments, could be responding to this fall and harvest season.

“Field fires are a very common thing this time of year,” he said. “The weather is nice, and the crops are dry and people are getting out and burning their leaves and ditches.”

Most field fires, such as one that occurred behind 2135 120th just west of Badger on Saturday afternoon, are preventable, Westling said. Saturday’s fire, which stretched across a harvested bean field for nearly a mile, was believed to have been caused by an unattended burn pile of lawn refuse and leaves.

“You definitely need to stay close by and keep those fires attended,” he said. “Don’t leave it.”

A front loader is used to snuff the leading edge of a field fire on Oct. 9 near Badger in Webster County.

According to Westling, controlled burns of ditches and leaves are being allowed in Webster County at this time, in spite the dry and often breezy conditions.

“I don’t know of any countywide burn bans that are in effect right now,” he said. “With the way everyone has been able to get out into the fields and get their crops harvested, that stubble can burn quickly. If flames catch the wind and hit an unplowed field it spreads like a wildfire. Unfortunately, with these dry conditions, there will probably be a few more fires.”

Fort Dodge Firefighter Mike Cone recommends applying a city’s burning rules to rural fires to help keep them under control.

“Always keep fires at least 50 feet from buildings, have a water source and don’t leave them unattended,” Cone said.

Westling also recommends that farmers do not burn their ditches.

“As quickly as they are getting out of the field, they may want to burn off ditches when harvest is done,” he said. “If everything looks good then they might leave it unattended and the next thing you know it spreads out of control.”

Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or enelson@messengernews.net

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