Princeton among six fire agencies fighting fire at Oak Park

Photo by Joan Spiczka
Firefighters make their way down a gravel road where they were fighting a large grass fire near Highway 23 and Benton County Road 9, just east of Oak Park.

Princeton Fire and Rescue and the DNR were among the five agencies called to assist the Foley Fire Department Sunday afternoon to fight a 100-plus-acre grass fire in rural Foley.

Foley Fire Chief Mark Pappenfus received the fire call at about 1:12 p.m. The fire had started in a residential yard and was

Photo by Joan Spiczka
Thick, black smoke billows from the flames in this field where six fire departments fought a grass fire Sunday afternoon west of Oak Park. Authorities estimate about 120 acres burned.

running along the north side of the yard and 85th Street, west of Benton County Road 9, according to Pappenfus. The area is about nine miles west of Princeton.

A wind from the south was pushing the fire north and, at one point, the high flames jumped a township road at 90th Street, Pappenfus reported. He had called in the Foreston Department right away, to assist through mutual aid, but as the fire proved to be more challenging, he also called in the departments in Princeton, Milaca and Baldwin Township. The DNR was involved heavily, bringing in three track fire-fighting vehicles to supplement Foley’s track vehicle.

Baldwin was covering the Princeton fire station when Princeton’s crew went out, but Baldwin also sent two trucks in the structure protection effort.

Three homes and one barn, all in separate locations, were assigned fire protection with two fire trucks at each location, Pappenfus noted.

“We wanted to make it stopped at Highway 23,” Pappenfus said of the all-out fire-fighting effort, in which the final cleanup was at 5:15 p.m. The fire mostly consumed low land grass, or swamp, as well as some higher grass land. It was going into a cornfield on the north end of the fire-damaged area, where firefighters knocked the fire down on the south side of Highway 23, according to Pappenfus.

“We used a lot of water and a lot of people (to fight the fire),” Pappenfus said. “We had to get it stopped.”

The fire, of which the cause was unknown as of about 10:15 a.m. on Monday, was challenging, Pappenfus said, because of the wind and high flames. The fire burned about a mile, from south to north, and would have been much easier to stop if there had been air support, either with a helicopter or plane, Pappenfus said. But the problem is that those units have pulled out from the area because of water freeze-up at this time of year, he said.

The situation is therefore more challenging now, Pappenfus said, with the lingering drought putting the area in high fire danger.