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Drought Sparking Field Fires with No Relief in Sight

Warm temperatures, brisk winds and lack of rain are creating dangerous fire conditions, especially for farmers.

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    Photo: Joe Hren

    Captain Eric Funkhouser looks over a charred field near Bargersville.

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    Photo: Paul Bird

    Firefighters put out a field fire near Bargersville

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    Photo: Paul Bird

    Firefighters put out a field fire near Bargersville

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    Photo: Paul Bird

    Fire fueled by drought and high winds spreads across a field near Bargersville

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    Photo: Paul Bird

    Smoke fills the air during a field fire near Bargersville

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    Photo: Joe Hren

    National Weather Service Office Indianapolis

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    Photo: Joe Hren

    National Weather Service Office Indianapolis

Usually farmers hope for dry weather to harvest their crops. But weather this dry is sparking field fires. The fire Thursday afternoon swept across fields in Shelby and Johnson counties prompting state police to evacuate Williamstown.

“These fires get out of control very quickly; it’s not something that happens over 30 minutes. This is something 5 minutes this fire could be out of control and you can’t stop it anymore,” said Bargersville Community Fire Captain Eric Funkhouser.

He was on the scene a week ago when fire charred about 60 acres of a soybean field near Bargersville. Eleven fire departments and about 75 emergency personnel helped extinguish the blaze, most likely igniting from the farmer’s combine.

“The grain due to how dry it was, was building up, probably came in contact with the heat of the motor which caught the grain on fire and probably some of it fell out of the bottom which landed in the field.”

Meteorologist Dave Tucek with the National Weather Service said the last time with less than an inch of rainfall over an extended period was in 1963.

“As weather systems approach here they can’t draw moisture from the ground. They have to deal with what’s available in the atmosphere and that usually lends to a situation where the drought helps intensify itself.”

The high potential of fire has the National Weather Service issuing Red Flag Warnings while county officials enact Fire Bans with no relief in sight.

“It looks like we might have potential for some showers across the state, is it going to be a drought busting pattern? No, we don’t see that,” said Tucek.

Half of the counties in Indiana are under some kind of burn ban or advisory. In most counties, the ban discourages residents from outdoor burning and gives authorities permission to issue fines.

State Map of fire bans in place.

Joe Hren

Anchor, Indiana Newsdesk - WTIU & WFIU News. Follow him on Twitter @Joe_Hren

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