CROGHAN — Despite wind and dry conditions, firefighters from five departments were able to keep a grass fire on Friday down to an acre and a quarter. According to a Department of Environmental Conservation inspector, that could have been much worse considering the conditions.
The fire, a few miles north of the village of Croghan off State Route 812, was fought from two directions with water trucked to each location. Those access points to the fire were 1,000 and 2,000 feet from the road, requiring firefighters to haul equipment and extend hoses as far as possible.
Croghan Fire Chief Steve Monnat said it wasn’t clear what had started the fire, but it took about 80 people on the scene to “surround and drown” it.
Downed tree tops and abandoned stumps in the logging slash combined with a thick ground cover of dried pine needles provided easy fuel for the blaze.
“It was going pretty good when we got here,” said one firefighter, underestimating the intensity of the 10-foot flames as his colleagues chuckled while they soaked the ground still smoldering in spots.
“Wind was pushing it. The fire departments did a really good job,” said DEC Forest Ranger Luke Evans at the scene, “If it had gone up to a crowning fire [in the tree tops] it would have been much worse.”
Mr. Evans said the dry conditions had also caused significant fires near Old Forge and Boonville on Friday.
“We haven’t had enough rain so conditions are dry making the fire risk high right now,” he said, noting that brief downpours run off dry soil rather than soaking in nad saturating the ground and so do not mitigate the conditions.
Firefighters from Castorland, Beaver Falls, New Bremen and Natural Bridge joined the Croghan Department along with the Croghan Fire Auxillary and Lewis County Search and Rescue on the scene.