Any little spark could ignite a wildfire when there are windy, dry conditions mixed with low humidity.
Monday across Franklin County the conditions were ripe for fires. Three structure and grass fires between 1:45 p.m. and 3 p.m. erupted throughout the county.
Thomas Winter, Emergency Management Coordinator, said windy, dry conditions mixed with dead vegetation can happen at anytime of the year, not just during the traditional spring burn season. He said low humidity, not having a significant amount of rain, and high winds spells are a fire hazard.
“Relative humidity is one of the large factors,” Winter said. “In the springtime when we are coming out of winter, we have a lot of dead vegetation on the ground. We have already had our fall kill — a frost — so we have a lot of vegetation that is dying off. It is available to burn.”
The wind gusts were above 30 miles per hour Monday afternoon.
“If winds are above 15 miles per hour, you can’t burn,” Winter said. “Look at your weather conditions. A spark can go a long way. It can start a pretty big [fire].”
Winter said burn permits are needed to legally burn in the county. He said residents should heed the restrictions and make sure to follow all the regulations printed on the permits.
The first reported fire Monday was at 1:44 p.m. in the 200 block of North Seventh Street in Centropolis. A property owner reported a fire on his property, which ended with three structures on three different properties being damaged, according to a sheriff’s report. The fire was ruled accidental, possibly from a fire pit, the report said.
The other fires in the county Monday afternoon were at 3743 Cloud Road and on Utah Road near Wellsville.
Winter said those three fire calls were handled by six different departments, spreading the county fire fighting resources thin. He said the emergency management’s role is to monitor the situation and provide help if mutual aid is needed.
“We are the Home Depot for the fire services,” Winter said. “We listen and see what their requests are. They did not need any out-of-county resources. We can help with that. They handled their business like they were supposed to.”
He said Franklin County and the surrounding counties have mutual aid agreements to help fight fires.
“We are more than willing to help them, and they are willing to help us,” Winter said.
Even residents did what they could to help. Robert Smith, a Pomona resident, who lives a couple of miles from the Centropolis fire, was one of the first to arrive on the scene after hearing about the fire on the scanner.
“We are the neighborhood watch,” he said.