A 110-acre wildfire in Brown County State Park that started Sunday evening is under control after firefighters from several volunteer departments and a state agency worked to surround it with a line of fire.
The park remains open and visitors may still see some smoke until rain or snow extinguishes the last smoldering remnants, officials said. No structures were damaged.
The fire started on the east side of the park around 5:30 pm Sunday in a remote area away from any structures. Firefighters from the Southern Brown Volunteer, Hamblen Township Volunteer, and Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Departments, as well as Indiana Department of Natural Resources personnel and conservation officers, arrived on the scene Sunday night .
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By Monday the volunteer crews were gone and 10 members of the DNR firefighting unit were able to terminate a 2.97 mile line of fire around the blaze to prevent it from spreading to any other part of the park. 15,815 acres.
The crews used leaf blowers and chainsaws to remove leaf litter and other fuel sources and used nearby horse trails as firebreaks, said Darren Bridges, DNR state fire coordinator.
“The line averages about two and a half feet wide, and we worked to get the brush and leaves down into the mineral soil,” Bridges said. “The fire won’t cross unless a strong wind comes.”
Crews have yet to determine the cause of the fire, but Bridges said there are many recreational trails in the area and it likely originated near one.
There will still be smoke within the contained area when large dead trees and other “heavy fuels” finish burning, Bridges said, so visitors shouldn’t be alarmed. The fire will likely continue to burn until the area sees a significant rain or snow event, but it won’t threaten any structures.
The National Weather Service forecast rain Thursday night in Brown County and heavier rain Saturday night. The forecast rains should be enough to take care of the fire, Bridges said.
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The fire occurred on rough terrain, so the firefighters were unable to use the water and created the break instead. Crews were able to douse the perimeters of the horse trail, Bridges said, as DNR vehicles were able to use them to reach the blaze.
Marty Benson, deputy director of communications at DNR, wrote in an email Wednesday that park staff will continue to monitor the blaze.
“The park’s recreational facilities continue to operate as normal, as they did during the fire,” Benson wrote.
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Hoosiers can report bush or forest fires to DNR’s state dispatch by calling 812-837-9536. The best information emergency responders can get is GPS coordinates, Bridges said.
“People see (fires) from far away and it’s hard to spot,” Bridges said. “Closer they can get to the fire and give us a good location, like crossing sections or something, that’ll help.”
Fire season typically begins around Halloween, Bridges said, when oak and hickory trees shed their leaves. In early fall, when only Maples and Polar are losing their leaves, there isn’t much concern unless an area is in severe drought.
IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the non-profit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.