MITCHELLVILLE, Iowa — High winds combined with warm temperatures caused dangerous fire conditions on Friday, which led to a grass fire in Mitchellville that took firefighters hours to put out.
The fire came dangerously close to some nearby homes as dozens of firefighters from several departments worked to get the upper hand on the flames.
“Any time you get a fire in a field this time of year, when all the ditches are dry, the fields are dry, you get a fire going, then you get a wind like this going on, it could be pretty bad,” said Lt. Rich Blaylock, Public Information Officer with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “It can go from road to road and just keep on going.”
“The wind is a big challenge, dry conditions definitely doesn’t help,” said Mike Twohey, Mitchellville Fire Chief. “With these winds, an ember could fly somewhere.”
Several departments came together shortly before 1:30 on Friday afternoon to get control of the grass fire in the 9600 block of NE 62nd Avenue.
“We had, as you can see, high winds, and fire can travel very fast,” said Chief Twohey. “It went across the road and a couple residents that we had to protect. So everybody did a very good job today. There was several departments from the east side of Polk County here today. They did a great job getting everything knocked down, put out.”
And it’s not just putting out the fire that authorities had to worry about.
“With us having to block the road, you know, our ultimate is keeping the firefighters safe so they’re able to work on the field fire,” said Derrick Spoerry, Mitchellville Police Chief. “So we have to control the intersections, control the roadways. So it’s one we can’t leave open, because if we leave a roadway open and someone’s driving through, paying attention to the fire and strikes someone, that’s on us.”
The highly coordinated effort puts a strain on resources.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time I’m the only officer working, so for me the resources are very limited,” said Chief Spoerry. “Today we had four officers that we had to shut down the whole area due to the smoke blowing across the road and everything else, so it puts a lot of strain on my department, being short-staffed and even Polk County having to divert a deputy out here to help us control traffic.”
Officials do not know what caused the fire.