WINDSOR TWP., Ohio (WJW) – A wildfire that has already consumed dozens of acres of woodland in Ashtabula County continues to burn, although firefighters believe they have it contained within a firebreak that was cut by bulldozers from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The fire, which has been burning for about four days, was started by embers from an open fire on private property.
“We are estimating between 75 and 100 acres now that have been destroyed. We have seen displaced wildlife we’ve seen deer running, pigs on the loose, turtles … and its not out,” said Asst. Windsor Township Fire Chief Callie Mallory.
The bulldozers finally pulled out of the area about 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, but Windsor firefighters continue to monitor the burn and say they have encountered other smaller brush fires along the way.
“This morning, we actually had a report of a brush fire alongside the road down right by our gulley, heavy woods, and came upon another one while we were going to another one, big pile in a field that was on fire. We wound up having to extinguish both of them,” said Mallory.
Continued dry conditions leave Erie County declaring an open burning ban in Margaretta, Groton and Oxford Townships until conditions improve
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s drought monitor map moved much of the state of Ohio from a condition that was fine to a D-0 or “abnormally dry” yellow condition in just one week ending with May 30.
Since that time, Northeast Ohio has experienced no rain and the dry conditions have continued, with the state on the verge of a drought designation that could come as soon as Tuesday.
“Yeah, I’m not really into predictions here where I work,” said Richard Heim who created the most recent NOAA drought map.
“But looking at the forecast, looking at the indicators, and looking at the map, I don’t see any improvement,” Heim told Fox 8 News.
The continued dry conditions concern firefighters who know only one stray ember can start something as large as the fire in Ashtabula County, which firefighters from 30 different departments in three counties were battling.
Having so many firefighters and equipment out of service for one fire also has Mallory asking residents across the area to do everything they can to prevent another such blaze.
“I have pretty significant concerns, because the problem was we have been using so much equipment on that fire yesterday and a lot of wear and tear because of how rough that was back there. It took a lot of equipment out of service; damaged fire hose units that just aren’t in service anymore so now I don’t have the resources to respond to something else significant, we’re concerned,” she added.
The concerns are greater for rural fire departments, many of which have only part time or volunteer staff and large areas of undeveloped woodland and fields.
The state has a ban on open fires during the months of March, April and May.
Mallory said many property owners clear their woodland during their months and pile up their debris to burn after June first.
But the Law also states that after June 1 all of those open fires must be reported to local fire departments, and in the case of the fire that started the wildfire in Windsor Township, Mallory says it wasn’t reported.
“The ODNR is going to have to bring an investigator out here,” said Mallory.
But she urged caution.
“I understand it’s hard right now, the weather is beautiful. People want to be outside and enjoy campfires with their families. We haven’t been able to do this for a while. We want people to enjoy themselves and have fun, but just use some good judgement,” said Mallory.