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Large field fire near Brown-Jackson county line - UPDATED 8:30 p.m.
Updated on: 08.08.12

VAN BUREN TWP. -- Shortly after 4 p.m., Van Buren firefighters were called to a field fire that originated with one flaming hay bale in the 8900 block of State Road 135 South, near the Brown-Jackson county line.

4:25 p.m. UPDATE: The Van Buren fire chief has asked for help from all available firefighters in the county. The fire has grown from about one acre to about 30 acres and is moving quickly.

5:15 p.m. Additional fire personnel and apparatus are continuing to arrive to assist. Responders are also working to protect structures near the path of the fire.

5:45 p.m. Fire personnel continue to fight the blaze from several sides. At this point, it has spread into nearby woods. A reporter on the scene says it appears a mobile home has been protected and remains standing, though the property around it has been touched by fire.

6:20 p.m. One property owner in the area is being transferred to EMS with burns, the severity of which have not been reported. Crews are working to distribute water to those working the scene.

7 p.m. According to emergency responder radio traffic, the property owner's injuries were minor burns. Firefighters from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources are working to control the path of the fire near the woods, but cannot report that they have it "hooked" yet.

The following Brown County Democrat photos by Sara Clifford were shot around 5 p.m.:

7:25 p.m. UPDATE: The Van Buren fire chief reports that the fire is under control.

8:20 p.m. UPDATE: Van Buren Fire Chief John Ward reports that with the help of more than 50 firefighters from eight departments and the DNR, no structures were lost in the fire, which spanned approximately 1 1/2 square miles.

Van Buren firefighters were dispatched shortly before 4 p.m. when a man baling hay reported a bale on fire. "We had run on this property about 5 weeks ago," Ward said, but firefighters were able to extinguish that fire quickly. "But this time, by the time we were called and with the location he was in, the field was cropped, and it just took off," Ward said.

Shifting wind and tinder-dry ground conditions made matters worse. Brown County has been under a burn ban since June 28 because of high fire danger.

The fire jumped three fence lines and spread into some trees before firefighters could bring it under control, three-and-a-half hours after it started.

Van Buren Township residents also came to help, with a bulldozer to help make a fire break and a commercial water tanker usually used to supply private homes. Area residents also delivered drinking water to firefighters.

Firefighters pulled water for the fire from hydrants near the Brown-Jackson county line, tankers from area fire departments, and what was left in a couple of small ponds after a dry summer. Ward considered an offer from a local pilot to drop 300-gallon water loads from a plane, but the price tag of $1,000 per hour was cost-prohibitive, he said.

No firefighters were injured. One property owner was treated for minor burns.

As of 8 p.m., Ward did not have confirmation on the names of the owners of the affected properties.

"I'd just like to put out a thank-you to all the people who were out here helping, and the businesses and individuals," he stressed. "It is much appreciated."

Van Buren has one of the largest fire protection areas but the smallest volunteer force of any of the county's six departments. 

9:06 p.m. UPDATE: Fire crews are being released from the scene.

Obituaries
See Full List »

Thomas Smith, 66, Brown County
  Husband of Kathleen Smith

Roscoe Stanley Shepherd, 77, North Vernon
  

Eileen F. (Denoon) Walters, 51, Cordry-Sweetwater
  Wife of James A. “Jim” Walters of Cordry-Sweetwater

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