High winds cause fire to scorch 50-70 acres
BOONE COUNTY - A controlled burn grew out of control Saturday morning and swept through as many as 70 acres of grassland in northern Boone County.
A resident was burning land around 10:10 a.m. at 1951 East Pinnacles Road to clear a space for a garden. By noon the fire had spread out of control because of the wind.
Crews from the Boone County Fire Protection District managed to contain the fire initially, but high winds caused the flames to jump the containment lines and continue to spread.
More units were called to the scene to help protect the many structures threatened by the encroaching flames.
"The biggest issue isn't that the grass is burning, it's that there's many structures here that were threatened," said Assistant Chief Gale Blomenkamp. "And so we had to deploy multiple units to different areas to provide structure protection for this wind driven fire."
Blomenkamp called this time of year "natural cover fire season" because he said many people take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to burn grass or brush. However, grasses are dead or dormant and don't take in any moisture, leaving them dry and prone to fire. He suggested that people who want to burn should do so at strategic times in order to reduce the risk of a controlled burn escalating beyond control.
"Those brush piles will burn while it's raining and/or snow cover. If they're looking to burn off fields they need to do it very early in the morning, very late in the evenings, when the winds are usually a little calmer and the humidity is higher." He also suggested waiting for later in the year, such as March or April, when the winds typically calm down.
"The issue that we're having is we're in a high fire danger right now and until we get some significant moisture, we're going to be in that situation. And we're encouraging everyone to not do any open burning today. The grasses are dead or dormant so there's no uptake of moisture into those plants."
Average wind speads Saturday measured around 15 miles per hour, with gusts up to 20 miles per hour. Wind gusts are expected to be even stronger Sunday, peaking around 30 miles per hour.
To know if weather conditions are safe for burning, Blomenkamp recommended calling local fire departments.
[Editor's Note: The story was updated to include information about Saturday's wind speeds.]