Air Tankers Fight Brush Fire in Lawrence County

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Smoke filled the air as flames continued to burn hours after a brush fire started near Snake Run Road in Shenango Township Sunday afternoon.

“Upon arrival at the scene, we saw that it was a rather large brush fire,” said Shenango Township Volunteer Fire Chief David Rishel. “The fire had taken in approximately 550 acres. There were flames, at the onset of the fire was 50-60 feet in the air. It was unbelievable.”

With the help of as many as 27 local fire departments and dozens of firefighters the fire was about 90 percent contained in a matter of hours. No homes were evacuated, but there were fire trucks stationed at each of the nearly twenty properties.

“The good thing was nobody was hurt, there was no homes lost and this is an area where on the perimeter of the fire there were several farms and homes,” said Chief Rishel.

A home is where the fire started, in a burn barrel. High winds complicated the firefighting effort, Rishel said.

“It was changing and it created a real problem for us,” said Chief Rishel.

Foresters from the state Bureau of Forestry were called in to help, bringing with them two 800- gallon capacity planes, capable of doing multiple drops. The planes are used not just to drop water, but also to give crews an eye in the sky, helping them keep the fire small and away from nearby homes.

“That aerial view really helps out a lot, and helps us just figure out how we’re going to attack it, what’s threatened, what needs to be worked on first, so we can prioritize that,” said John Brundege, a Forester.

Crews worked until dusk to make sure that all the hot spots were extinguished. Specially trained forestry crews stayed on site throughout the night.

The homeowner, who officials said was burning in dry weather, will be billed for the cost of all the equipment used, including the planes.

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