Washington has been mired in a moderate to severe drought and the lack of any measurable precipitation has elevated the fire risk. The “unusually” dry conditions, low humidity and high winds are a recipe for fire.
According to Fire Chief Bill Halmich crews have responded to multiple calls likely connected to an ongoing drought and prime conditions for fires.
On Saturday, crews were called to the 4000 block of St. Ann Road for a shed fire just before 1:30 p.m. St. Ann Road is located south of Highway KK in a rural area outside the Washington city limits.
Assistant Chief Nick Risch said the original call was for a shed fire, but the high wind caused the fire to spread to a home located very close by.
Risch said the fire moved to the attic and was challenging for fire crews. Because the home was old with multiple additions and renovations, it was difficult to reach the attic area, he said.
“It was a challenge to attack,” he said.
After more than an hour, Risch said crews were able to bring the fire under control. He said the fire was contained to the second floor, but there was significant water damage to the home. He said an insurance company would have to decide if it was a total loss or not.
The location presented multiple challenges for fire crews, Risch said. Out in the rural area, water had to be brought in to fight the fire. Washington received mutual aid from Union, Marthasville, New Haven, Beaufort and Gerald. Boles also was called in to fill stations vacated by crews.
Risch said firefighters had to use a lot of hose to reach the house because of issues with the driveway. He said people should check with the fire department to make sure large fire trucks can reach homes when building driveways.
The fire was believed to have started from an open burn being conducted outside. It was not considered suspicious.
There were no injuries reported.
While the St. Ann Road fire wasn’t suspicious, a fire later Saturday was.
Crews responded to the 300 block of Louis Street for a brush fire in the woods. The fire was by the soccer fields behind the Four Rivers Family YMCA.
Risch said fortunately the wind had settled down by the time crews were called to the fire just before 7 p.m. The slower winds helped keep the fire from spreading.
Crews were able to put the fire out quickly and were on the scene less than an hour. No injuries were reported.
Risch said the cause of the fire is still being investigated, but has been deemed suspicious. He said there were two distinct starting points.
Halmich said the fire calls should force everyone to be aware of the dangerous conditions.
He said the city has put all burn requests on hold until there is a significant precipitation event. He said everyone should consider waiting to do any kind of burns.
“No open burning whatsoever,” he said. “Even if you’re cautious.”
Halmich said some fires are starting because of discarded ashes. People think the ashes are burnt out, but the strong winds are causing the embers to reignite.
This type of dry weather is unusual in winter months, but not unheard of. Halmich said it seems to be happening more in recent years. He said the city needs a good rain or snowstorm to help improve the fire conditions.