Crews control blaze near Pennock, but not before 200 acres burn
PENNOCK -- A small brush fire that was fanned by east winds sparked an out-of-control grass fire Monday afternoon that burned a 1½-mile stretch of conservation reserve land and came dangerously close to a house and an out-building.
It's estimated that 200 acres of grassland was burned along with live and downed trees that were in the path of the blaze.
"They just lit up," said Jeff Arends, assistant fire chief from the Pennock Fire Department, which was the first of five area fire departments to respond to the call. Some sloughs and cattails in the section also burned. The fire was much larger than they expected when they first got the call.
"We didn't realize what it was before we got there," he said.
The fire was located along Kandiyohi County Road 5, about six miles north of Willmar.
The Pennock Fire Department was called out around 2 p.m. and was on scene for 3½ hours.
Mutual aid was provided by the Willmar, New London, Spicer and Sunburg fire departments.
The forestry division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department was conducting a controlled grass fire burn about two miles down the road. Their crews also assisted firefighters in battling the blaze, according to Arends.
The fire burned around a metal machine shed, a truck and very close to a house owned by Wade Odland.
Odland's uncle, Gaylon Odland, who was walking over the charred grass Monday afternoon, said he'd owned the farmsite for 10 years before selling it his nephew about four months ago. He said no one was at home when the fire broke out.
Arends said the fire came very close to structures on the rural home. "They were lucky there," he said.
Because the fire zipped through grasslands, there was no easy way for crews to reach the blaze.
They used grass rigs "and a lot of leg work," Arends said.
Pickups and grass rigs were driven across the stubble of a corn field to get to the fire while other crews set up a fill station on the home site where tankers pumped water. The grass rigs had to go back and forth to fill up their small tanks to keep fighting the fire.
"We had to drive back and forth to fill up," Arends said.
Three large tankers got stuck in the wet and muddy yard and had to be pulled out by a wrecker.
With the current dry conditions, Arends cautions people to be careful when doing a controlled brush or grass fire.
"Just watch what you're doing," he said.