Conditions Are Ripe for Brush Fires to Rage out of Control
St. Clair, Stacy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Stacy St. Clair Daily Herald Staff Writer
A dramatic example of what a dry winter can do was a brush fire that burned Thursday afternoon along Route 53 near Woodfield Shopping Center.
Firefighters from at least seven departments and others tried to contain the fire, fanned by gusts of more than 35 mph.
The flames, most not more than a foot high, blackened several acres of Busse Woods Forest Preserve between Golf and Higgins roads east of Route 53.
The spectacle and intermittent clouds of smoke slowed traffic on the highway and on Golf Road.
Small brush fires also were reported Thursday afternoon in Naperville, Oak Brook and Lake County. Several more have occurred over the past week.
A winter with less than its share of precipitation and a relatively dry spring has made plants susceptible to uncontrollable fires, experts said.
"If you just light a match and touch it to the grass, you'd have acres catching fire," said Fred Maier, director of the Spring Brook Nature Center in Itasca.
Conditions are so volatile that many recent "controlled" burns - choreographed by experts - also have become unmanageable. On Wednesday, two DuPage County brush fires came dangerously close to buildings.
Ironically, wind carried a planned burn by the Itasca Park District within 100 yards of the fire station. And West Chicago firefighters spent about three hours battling a forest preserve district brush fire, which almost engulfed a metal shed and barn.
Controlled fires are set to spread against the wind, using wet and pre-burned vegetation to stop the flames from spreading. The fires are set to prevent scrub bushes, trees and weeds from shading native prairie plants.
Although firefighters must battle out-of-control blazes ignited by other agencies, they are more concerned with brush fires started by inexperienced residents.
About 80 percent of brush fires extinguished by the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District are caused by people burning leaves, grass and shrubbery. …