Massive fire damages 70 acres of farm land - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Massive fire damages 70 acres of farm land

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SALINE COUNTY (WSIL) -- A farmer in Saline County lost 70 acres of land Thursday night to a massive fire.

This comes after what fire officials say a controlled fire grew out of control. 

Harrisburg resident Charles Womack tells News 3 he was nervous when he first saw the massive fire. 

"I got to here, I began to worry, but of course, my wife was here," said Womack. 

Harrisburg Fire Chief John Gunning tells News 3 a farmer sparked the fire, by burning bean stubble on his property off of Old Route 13 and Barrett Lane.

High wind gusts topping 30 miles per hour fueled and spread those flames. 

"The wind kicked up on him and it got into some of that water cane, and once it got in there it started burning, and that stuff burns rapid, it burns fast and the wind conditions got even worse which made it spread a lot quicker," said Gunning.

Smoke from that fire could be seen for miles, the plume so large it was even able to be captured on radar.

The location of the blaze posed a challenge for fire crews.

"We couldn't get equipment into it, we couldn't get equipment down to it, so it inhibited us from going in to fight this fire and put it out," said Gunning.

While crews didn't actually fight the fire, around 10 firefighters were on scene monitoring the burn.

Gunning explained," We had men staged up in different areas around the fire and then the property owner and another property owner was watching it on the north side also."

Chief Gunning says Thursday night's rain helped keep the fire in check.

He adds," We had it in our sight and we were ready to act on it if it done something that we didn't want it to do."

For Womack, he says fires like this should be a reminder to never burn things outdoors when it's too windy. 

"I think he realizes now that next time he's not going to," said Womack. 

Since the fire was outside of city limits and on a day with severe winds, Harrisburg Mayor John McPeek says he's planning to charge the farmer.

"Anytime there's a fire outside the city limits of Harrisburg and we respond, there is a $2,000 fee for us to respond to the fire," explained McPeek.

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