Purchase photos

Wind whips fire out of control

7/23/2013

By NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net

DAMAR -- Through all his years, Loren Newell has learned you never fully can trust Mother Nature.

So as the final flames of a controlled burn that got out of control were extinguished Monday afternoon south of Damar, Newell was taking in the surroundings of his property and nearby pasture ground that burned in the massive fire that had units responding from several towns -- including the Ellis County Rural Fire Department.

Newell had checked with authorities earlier Monday and had been given the go-ahead to burn a few things on his property approximately 2 miles south of the small town of Damar.

"We were cleaning up some trash, had a lot of lumber,"  Newell said. "We had everything burned around it, then the wind came up and whoosh."

That's all it took to get the dry tinder rolling with flames, sending smoke high into the air that could be seen several miles away.

"At noon, we had everything under control," Newell said. "Then that damn wind came up. That's when it went."

Newell said he and a few family members nearly had the initial controlled burn out when the wind, gusting from the southeast, probably carried an ember and started the much larger blaze.

"Me and three grandsons and my son and his hired man were all out here,"  Newell said. "I was ready to call it in and say we had everything under control. Then that damn wind, and boom."

Fire units from Damar, Palco, Plainville, Ellis County and Graham County were dispatched to the scene to help extinguish the blaze that roared northwest of Newell's property.

"It was gone," Newell said. "By the time the fire trucks got out here, it was a half mile away."

Several people helped by supplying a grader and a tractor and disk to help cordon off the blaze and keep it from spreading too much as fire crews attempted to battle the blaze. Midland Marketing supplied tanks of water, and others hauled in additional tanks to help fire trucks refill.

Newell said he had approximately 160 acres of ground near the fire, and other farmers had adjacent land that was scorched. A tree row on Newell's property to the north of the initial burn, which was planted approximately 25 years ago, was nearly destroyed by flames.

Rooks County Emergency Management Coordinator Butch Post said he estimated 250 to 300 acres were burned from the fire, which traveled nearly a mile west of the original site.

While Newell was upset the burn got out of control due to the wind, he was thankful there weren't any injuries from the fire or the heat that reached near the triple digits.

"Nobody got hurt, and we had a lot of help,"  Newell said.