It is not only the heat that is dangerous as LaGrange County continues to dry out under blazing conditions. And conditions will not be improving anytime soon.
LaGrangeCountyhas been placed under a Critical Fire Danger Warning, noting that the hot temperatures, combined with relative humidity around 20 percent and strong, gusty winds, will create ideal conditions for dangerous fires.
LaGrangeCountyput a burn ban into effect on June 14, prohibiting the burning of brush, trash, unattended campfires, and other open air fires.
LaGrange County Communications Director Arron Knisley compared the number of grass fires reported since the burn ban to the same period last year. In the last half of June 2011, the county had two reported grass fires. Since June 14, 2012, 39 grass fires have been reported, accounting for over ⅓ of all grass fires since the first of the year.
“A lot of people are not following the burn ban order,” Knisley said. “We’ve had grass fires reported every day.”
As of press time Thursday, both Wolcottville and Topeka were planning to go ahead with their 4th of July fireworks displays, although both towns were making preparations in regard to the fire hazard. LaGrange County Emergency Management Director and Topeka Fire Chief Stewart Bender said that the department has been wetting the launch area down for the past week and will have three trucks and firefighters on standby during the fireworks show.
Bender cautioned others from setting off fireworks in these conditions. “It’s an extremely bad idea right now,” Bender said. “People don’t realize how dry it is out there.” People are also caught off guard by how fast a grass fire can spread. Bender said that under current conditions, a grass fire can spread 12 ft. per minute.
“They need to cut burning out right now. Period,” Bender added.
Other fires are being set accidentally by motorists throwing cigarettes out into ditches. With low humidity and dry, windy conditions, small fires can quickly grow into large ones. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the Indiana State Police advise that if smoke from a nearby grass fire is inhibiting visibility on roadways, pull over and stop. Driving through these conditions is extremely dangerous as visibility can be diminished to almost zero and breathing may become difficult. Hoosiers are encouraged to report any unattended fires by calling 911 immediately.
The current forecast calls for temperatures near 100 degrees Thursday, with only slightly cooler temperatures and little chance of rain through the weekend and into the holiday.