Local Firefighters Respond to Indiana Fire

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By Nick Hausen

RIDGWAY --  Crews from three states continued to fight the fire Wednesday afternoon at the Abengoa ethanol plant. The fire started Monday night and firefighters believed they had the flames out Wednesday morning, but it rekindled throughout the day.

Officials say a corn bin was being taken down for maintenance when a spark started a fire and at one point, 50,000 bushels of corn were smoldering.

Locally, fire crews from Shawneetown are among those that responded and firefighters at Ridgway were put on standby.


Fire departments often use the practice known as mutual aid, other departments coming to assist in the fire fighting any way they can.

"Covering our stations when we have more equipment out than in, and fail to have the equipment we're required to have on hand at all times," explained Ridgway fire chief John Ed Hish.

In Southern Illinois, more than a hundred fire departments make up the Coal Belt Fire Protection Association. An organization of fire departments that share a radio frequency and agree to offer assistance.

"By everyone being on a common frequency, everyone pretty well knows when something is going on and there's a possibility they may be needed," said Hish.

In extreme cases, assistance is even required across state lines. Hish remembers Indiana departments coming to assist in 2006 when a furniture store caught fire in Omaha.

"A bunch of tankers from Indiana came in," explained Hish. "Very elaborate, very big tankers. I don't remember the number, but it was sizable."

The mutual aid call is common practice, especially in rural locations where water isn't readily available. Occasionally a department that's not a member of the Coal Belt needs mutual aid, but neighboring fire departments still try to respond.

"Firemen usually help each other and I think even if we didn't have a formal agreement, it would happen," said Hish.

When fire departments respond to mutual aid, the department where the emergency is located typically pays for all the resources that are used.

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