Crews scramble to put out brush fires in Washington County, Mo.


WASHINGTON COUNTY, Mo. – Firefighters in Washington County, Missouri were exhausted after fighting three major wildland fires in the last 24 hours.

The biggest one burned Thursday.

Firefighters from as far away as Brentwood and Ladue came to help Potosi firefighters. The weather made the battle so much tougher.

Missouri Department of Conservation employees worked into the night putting out hotspots. They brought in bulldozers to push away brush and bring down trees filled with burning embers.

“With the winds like we had today, the embers can easily get across the road and start the fire on the other side, so we needed to get those embers out of the sky and on the ground,” said Mark Johanson, district supervisor for the department of conservation.

Johanson and his crew worked on a 200-acre blaze in the Pea Ridge Conservation area. It broke out around 9:30 a.m. Thursday and burned into the evening. Earlier in the day, about 100 hundred firefighters were at war with the flames.

The fire raced across the ground pushed by high winds.

“You can’t outrun fire,” Potosi Fire Protection District Lt. Robert Lang said. “The flames were above five to seven foot at times.”

The other big problem – low humidity.

“The lower that number is, the hotter and faster it can burn because there’s no moisture in the air to help stop it,” Potosi Fire Protection District Lt. Dustin Crocker said.

They are grateful to an estimated 30 fire departments that traveled many miles to join the fight. No one was injured, some hunting cabins were lost to another fire overnight. About 20 people were evacuated Thursday but back in their homes by nightfall.

Veteran firefighters say this is among the worst they’ve ever seen.

“It was jumping over the highway, it was jumping over roads, anything we put in front of it would jump over it,” Lt. Lang said.

Firefighters in Potosi are all volunteers. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

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