GRAFTON, Ill. – Dry and windy conditions were not favorable for when a wildfire broke out in the Grafton area on Friday afternoon, just east of Raging Rivers. QEM Fire Protection District Fire Chief Gerry New said they basically just had to let mother nature go to work and let it burn itself out.
The first call came in around 2:15 p.m. on Friday.
The QEM Fire Department was joined by crews from the Brighton, Fieldon, Godfrey, and Jerseyville departments at various stages. Crews worked until dark on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday when they had to pull out because of safety issues. The location of the fire made it a challenge.
“Most of the area you can’t access them at all because of the terrain and this thing being on the bluffs. A lot of the hillside is just straight up and down,” Chief New said.
He said letting it burn and come to them was about the best they could do.
“Just taking care of the hot spots that have the potential of causing problems otherwise it’s going to have to burn. There’s just no other way around it,” Chief New said.
The Great River Road was even shut down for a few hours Sunday when they took on a different strategy.
“Last night we wound up calling for a ladder truck from the city of Jerseyville – and we sprayed water up as high as we could with that because they have a 75-foot ladder truck. Which, obviously, elevated water stream a lot higher than what we could do. And it’s kind of for lack of a better word, provided rainfall more or less. Let it come down off the hillside. Put a lot of fire out that way,” he said.
Fire Chief New said there was a residence right below the fire that they checked on a lot but overall they were lucky.
“The only thing that’s been damaged so far is just ground cover really. No structures, nobody’s been injured, you know we’re very fortunate for that,” New said.
As for the cause of the fire, they don’t know at this point and may never find out.
Fire Chief New has issued a burn ban for at least the next three days.
“People need to be careful and I do want to give a public thank you to everybody who has been out there. Like I said we’ve had fire departments out there. Same people but if you’d get a headcount we probably had 30-35 different people out there,” he said.
Chief New said the outpouring of support from the community has been fantastic. Meanwhile, FOX 2 spoke with the last two QEM firefighters as they left the scene for the day and they said they’re done and won’t have to come back Tuesday.