It doesn't take much to start a brush fire. That's why three years ago the department of environmental conservation banned open burning from March to the middle of May. In the past 30 days Herkimer County fire departments have responded to a dozen brush fires. Experts say dry weather conditions combined with dry brush is a recipe for disaster. Director of Emergency Services Robert Vandawalker says, "Until everything greens up and that goes away, you know there's a high potential. Also like today there's low humidity and high wind, if anybody was to let a fire get out of control today it'd be very hard to stop."
Brush fires present a unique set of challenges to area departments and the big one is location. Ilion Deputy Fire Chief Robert Paddock says, "We're not used to fighting fires that are some distance from our water source. Most of our response district we rely on hydrants and very often grass fires or brush fires will be in some of the parks in town where we have to bring the water actually to the fire."
Brush fires are dangerous even without the added wind. Fire fighters and civilians alike need to use extreme caution if a fire breaks out. Both added, "These things travel at a very high speed. In fact a windy day like this a normal person wouldn't be able to outrun a traveling fire when the wind is this high." "A lot of times brush fires lead to more fatigue for fireman, they're carrying equipment over longer distances to go to the fire. And very often it involves extreme physical labor."
Experts say this year brush fires occurred much earlier than normal. Regardless they do ask people to use common sense when starting a fire.