Crews fight grass fire in Hastings area

10:03 PM, Sep 11, 2012   |    comments
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  • Firefighters knock down corn field blaze in Hastings
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  • HASTINGS, Minn. - Firefighters from Hastings and two other communities Tuesday fought off a corn field blaze that was threatening a row of nearby homes.

    It's not clear what sparked the blaze, in an area along Minnesota Highway 316 south of Hastings.  It quickly moved toward the adjacent neighborhood.

    "You really could hear the roar," resident Don King told KARE.

    "It really was a roar or a rumble, and I opened my shades and my trees were on fire."

    The fire had swept across a field, fueled by dry corn stalks, and driven by hot, dry winds.  The flames leapt across back fences and charred parts of trees and yards, before being extinguished by firefighters.

    King said he did his best to spray down his back yard with his garden hose, but by then all of the dried plants and bushes had already been incinerated.  The bark on several of his trees had been charred.

    It was the exact type of fire authorities are expecting across at least two thirds of Minnesota, where conditions have reached the point of extreme fire danger.  Hastings, like many other cities, has an outdoor burning ban in place.

    "When we arrived the flames in those areas were some times 15 to 20 feet high," Hastings Fire Chief Mike Schutt told KARE.

    "The fire was moving so fast we were trying to slow it down and stop it, before it got into the houses, and it came very close today to about seven houses."

    Firefighters from the nearby towns of Miesville and Cottage Grove joined the Hastings crews at the scene, a development known as the South Pines Addition southwest of downtown Hastings.

    The Dakota County Sheriff's Office and Hastings Police also assisted at the scene, making sure that residents were aware of the situation and were ready to evacuate if necessary.

    The weather service says the combination of warm temperatures, strong winds and low relative humidity will create "explosive" fire growth potential.

    The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids was monitoring the wild fire situation Tuesday with aerial surveillance.  Pilots in fixed wing aircraft flew routes covering a grid that included many of the state's most forested areas.

    Olin Phillips, the wildfire manager for the Minn. Dept. of Natural Resources, or DNR, pointed out that 90 percent of fires are spotted by people on the ground first.  He urged Minnesotans to call 9-1-1 if they spot a fire, rather than assuming someone else already did.

    For those who live close to farm fields or wilderness areas that can catch fire, he recommended keeping a barrier of greenery around the home.

    "One of the big things that will actually protect a household is a green yard," Philips told KARE.

    "And if you've got a green yard around your house and you're watering your grass, that's going to slow down that fire. It won't be able to carry up against the building."

    He said those with cabins in more primitive areas of the state are often encouraged to install sprinklers on their roofs to protect against floating embers from a large fire.

    (Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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