Firefighters found out just how perfect the situation was for a wildfire to spread Monday afternoon in a field off Boone Ford Road. When emergency personnel arrived on scene, flames were licking across about 10 acres. By the time three hours had passed, firefighters had the blaze under control, but the fire left more than 160 acres blackened.
Firefighters and emergency personnel from four counties, the City of Calhoun and the Georgia Forestry Commission worked for three hours to contain the brush fire. The blaze touched a total of 165 acres in the Gordon County Farmville community, authorities said, but no structures were damaged.
Firefighters had to concentrate heavily on keeping four particular homes safe on Foster Lusk and Heinz Roads.
They saturated the ground around the homes in an effort to stave off the approaching fire.
Gordon County Emergency Management Agency Director Richard Cooper said the emergency personnel involved worked under the philosophy of saving lives first and property second, but that bringing a fire of this magnitude under control without structural damage was a significant accomplishment.
“It’s a big achievement to save someone’s home,” he said. “Any time you can help a family, it’s always a sense of accomplishment.”
A spark from a piece of farm machinery may have started the fire, Cooper said.
A man was bush-hogging when part of his machine hit a rock, generating a spark that ignited some grass, Cooper said.
“It’s one of the worst we’ve had in a long time,” he added.
The brush fire began around 1:15 p.m. and spread across 165.4 acres in three hours, he explained. The fire was not contained until around 5:30 p.m.
Wind conditions and the dry ground contributed to the speed with which the fire spread, Cooper said..
The size of the fire required personnel from surrounding counties to bring extra trucks, and the Georgia Forestry Commission supplied a helicopter. Bartow, Whitfield, Murray and Floyd Counties provided assistance.
Around 4 p.m. the blaze headed towards the Farmville area and almost reached Highway 53, according to Cooper. The Gordon County Fire Department used all of its trucks at the scene, plus a volunteer truck.
Around 5 p.m. the firefighters and Georgia Forestry personnel had a line around the fire with a helicopter dumping water on any hot spots.
An usually dry August also lead to two other brush fires in the Plainville area that same afternoon, officials said.
According to Gordon County Fire Chief David Hawkins:
A resident was burning trash in a barrel when an ember escaped and ignited brush nearby.
The Gordon County Fire Department was able to send to four firefighters, along some
Forestry Commission personnel to distinguish the blaze on Riverbend Road.
“We were able to keep four structures from burning there,” he said.
The other fire was located near the Gordon County/Floyd County line in a resident’s back yard.
Floyd County firefighters responded to that situation. The fire was located off Scott Lake Road and was contained within an hour, according to Floyd County Fire Chief Gordon Henderson.
Henderson said he was unsure of the cause, said it was probably burning trash.
Gordon County is one of the 54 counties in Georgia that has been under a ban on outdoor burning since May, Hawkins said.
The ban lasts until Sept. 31 and failure to comply could result in up to $3,000 in fines, according to the Environmental Protection Agency website, www.epa.gov.
Hawkins advises residents in these bone-dry conditions to be careful and to not burn anything. According to the National Weather Service, there is no chance of rain for the next few days, but there is a 20 percent chance of rain this weekend, beginning Saturday.