Firefighters search for cause of rural 7-acre woods fire

Investigators are still looking for the cause of a woods fire that burned about seven acres of private property covered in trees and underbrush west of Columbus.

Harrison Township firefighters were sent to the woods fire in the 14000 block of West Baker Hollow Road at about 2:15 p.m. Wednesday after a caller reported about one acre of land was on fire and close to a building, said Matt Lynch, deputy chief for the German Township Fire Department.

Firefighters found a large fire in a wooded area with steep terrain and several buildings close by, and requested assistance, Lynch said.

Wally Dietz, deputy chief for the Harrison Township Fire Department, said extremely dry conditions contributed to the fire spreading rapidly.

Six Bartholomew County fire departments and firefighters from Brown County and Johnson County arrived to help along with firefighters from the Hoosier National Forest. An estimated 45 firefighters worked at the scene into the early evening, Lynch said.

A private helicopter was utilized by the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department to fly over the scene to keep firefighters informed of where the fire was spreading.

The firefighters used brush trucks and brought water to the scene with tanker trucks, but had difficulty at the scene because of the dense woods and the thick underbrush, Lynch said. Firefighters had to approach much of the fire by hand and several burning trees were cut down by firefighters in their efforts to extinguish the fire.

Firefighters had the tree fire under control at 3:53 p.m., Lynch said, but firefighters stayed an additional two hours to extinguish hot spots and to walk the burned area to make sure the fire was entirely out. No buildings were damaged by the fire, firefighters said. Although evacuations of nearby homes were considered, no one was asked to leave their homes.

A Columbus Regional Hospital ambulance was at the scene, although no injuries were reported. The Salvation Army provided refreshments to firefighters who were working at the scene.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.