A Ford Cliff firefighter was rushed to ACMH Hospital after he collapsed from heat exhaustion while battling a large brush fire Sunday afternoon. Two other firefighters were treated at the scene for heat exhaustion as crews from more than a half-dozen fire departments struggled to douse flames amidst steep, rocky terrain, thick brush and 70-degree temperatures.
Crews using four-wheel-drive vehicles and a large "deuce and a half" brush truck accessed the fire using old logging roads and a gas well road, said Ford City Fire Department Chief Scott Gaiser.
"Even with the trucks, it was hard to move around back in the woods," he said. "Pretty much everything had to be carried in by hand to fight the fire. There was a lot of footwork to get to all the spots."
Gaiser said the 15-acre fire started in a wooded area bordered by Peach Street, Route 128 and Glade Run Road. Crews were called to the scene at 2:10 p.m. and remained on scene for about three hours. No homes or structures were damaged in the fire, and no other injuries were reported.
"If it would have traveled into the hollow by Glade Run, it could have gotten a lot worse," Gaiser said. "There are a lot of houses down in the hollow, and we could have been looking at a much worse situation."
One four-wheel-drive truck had to be pulled from a muddy area along the logging road after becoming stuck. Crews had to use another vehicle with a winch and cut down a tree to free the stuck vehicle.
The cause of the fire was undetermined but was deemed accidental. The chief said he had received unconfirmed reports of kids on ATVs in the area earlier in the day.
Crews from Ford City were assisted by crews from Manor, Ford Cliff, West Kittanning, South Buffalo, Rayburn, East Franklin and Worthington. Several other fire departments were placed on standby to handle other calls.
"I hate to strip the county of fire crews, but when you get a fire of this size and with the conditions we were facing, you need all the manpower you can get," Gaiser said. "We tried to do our best with the amount of people we had on scene in case another fire broke out somewhere else."
The fire was one of several throughout the day Sunday, according to Armstrong 911 dispatchers. Brush fire calls were reported in Boggs, East Franklin and Kiski during the afternoon hours.
Gaiser said Sunday's fire was the department's first of the year, but said he expects many more in the coming month.
"People don't realize that it's brush fire season already," he said. "It's been dry for several days now, and people are out working to clean up their yards and think they can burn the piles of debris."
"You have to be careful when doing any kind of burning," he noted. "We recommend that if you do want to burn, wait until a day when there is light rain and the ground is a little wet to help cut down on the chances of the fire getting out of control and spreading."
Gaiser said the dry weather and windy conditions over the past several days have made the area ripe for brush fires. Firefighters could get a break this week, as temperatures are expected to drop and rain is expected to move into the area during the next few days.
Gaiser thanked fire crews for their time and efforts Sunday afternoon, saying: "They did a hell of a job given the circumstances." He called in the help of George Presko Jr. of Cadogan, who brought in a backhoe to assist with firefighting efforts.
Written by The Leader-Times
Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix