Wildfire near Bridge Creek sparks task force action

By Carolyn Cole
Published on January 31, 2008

Eighteen Canadian County firefighters answered Bridge Creek’s call for help Tuesday as 50 mph winds fanned a grass fire in the community.

Bridge Creek officials asked for help from the Canadian County Fire Task Force at about 9:30 a.m. Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman acted as staging site manager, gathering resources in a parking lot near state Highway 152 and Sara Road. Firefighters from Yukon, Mustang, Piedmont, El Reno, Hinton and the Federal Correctional Institution brought five brush pumpers, two tankers, a paramedic vehicle and two command staff trucks.

A Yukon firefighter headed south to the fire ahead of the task force to get an assignment around 10 a.m. Hickman said the task force followed shortly after.

“It’s important that we move as a group together for the safety of the firefighters, and the way the task force works, everybody goes and does the same mission,” he said.

On the way through Tuttle, Bridge Creek firefighters reported they had the blaze under control and the task force could “disregard.” While the task force was turned back, Hickman said the response showed their plans are working.

“There are probably still some things we can work on and improve,” he said. “It was a good practice run for us.”
While El Reno firefighters responded to the task force call, El Reno Capt. David Harman said off-duty firefighters were called to a small grass fire near Rock Island and Elm.

“They had it under control pretty quickly,” he said.
With recent low humidity and high winds, Harman said so far the community has been lucky not to face blazes of the magnitude seen in the 2005 fire season.

“We have more dry grass than we normally would have had because of the wet weather last summer,” he said.

In addition to high grasses, dead tree branches also lie in many fields — the remnants from December’s ice storm. Hickman said firefighting vehicles have become stuck when the underbrush remains wet and muddy.

“The fire continues to move because it’s burning on top of the ground,” he said. “It’s a pretty volatile situation.”

Also, area firefighters expect conditions not to improve until late in March. Hickman said residents should help protect their homes by clearing a defensible space around structures — keep grass cut short, clear away debris and dead leaves and stack firewood away from the house.

“People need to use a little common sense and practice fire safety,” he said.”

If a rural resident intends to burn trash or debris, Harman urged them to check the weather report, follow the guidelines specified on their burn permits and keep watch over the fire. If the fire gets out of control, he said, the homeowner burning debris is held responsible for any resulting damage.

High winds alone can result in wildfires, as sparks fly off arching power lines stressed by gusts. Hickman said all it takes is a spark, and the winds can whip flames through dry lands.

“In some cases the fire is outrunning us,” he said. “It is extremely dangerous to our people and dangerous to the public.”

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