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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Area firefighters busy because of unusual winter weather

Friday, January 13, 2012

Morriston Volunteer Fire Department Captain Tim Dailey (right) and Lt. Corey Hendricks work on a flare up, following a Jan. 6 grass fire on Sycamore Road. The fast moving fire destroyed a barn, a shed and a carport, after a piece of burning cardboard fell from a burning barrel. Warm, dry and windy conditions have kept area fire departments busy in the new year. Photo by Richard Irby [Order this photo]
A fast moving grass fire destroyed a barn, shed and carport on a property on Sycamore Road, in southern Fulton County, on Jan. 6.

"I was burning some trash in a barrel when a piece of cardboard flew out and landed on the grass," said William Chamberlain, who lives at 2354 Sycamore Road. "Immediately, some grass caught on fire and it just took off. I yelled to my son to call 911, and I was trying to beat it out with a plastic snow shovel."

Chamberlain's son, Mark, was standing behind his father outside their home, with bandages around his elbows.

"I got burns on both elbows, my shoulders and hands," said Chamberlain, showing off blistered hands. He was treated at the scene.

"I was stomping on it and trying to hold it (the fire) back with a rake, and there was no way to stop it," Chamberlain added.

Luckily, the fire raced away from the Chamberlain's house, but quickly blackened the back yard and a nearby field.

A carport, filled with hay and stored possessions, along with a shed and barn were destroyed, as the fire was raging by the time firefighters arrived.

The Morriston and Glencoe Volunteer Fire Departments responded to the fire call, along with firefighters from Salem and Byron.

Ironically, the Chamberlains had just moved into the house the day before, relocating to Fulton County from Illinois.

"We were here less than 24 hours when this happened," Mark Chamberlain told The News.

All of the destroyed buildings were full of items belonging to the previous owner, including a travel trailer.

"There was a travel trailer in the barn and I tried to move it before the fire got there, but my truck doesn't have four wheel drive, so I couldn't get it out," said Chamberlain.

Both Chamberlains say firefighters lectured them about the dangers of trying to fight a fire by themselves.

"They told me to report a fire and get out of there," William Chamberlain said. Chamberlain, who is disabled and uses a walker.

He added, "That's what I will do next time. I'm lucky that I wasn't hurt."

On Jan. 4, Phillip Olson walked out of his front door to get his mail, only to discover his front yard was on fire.

Olson, who lives at 1258 Highway 62 East, also first tried to contain the fire before calling 911.

"I want you to do an article telling people to be careful about throwing cigarette butts out of their vehicles," Sandra Olson, Phillip's wife, said in a phone call to The News. "Firefighters said the fire started in the ditch in front of the house, and they believe it was started by a cigarette butt."

The fire burnt the front yard and scorched the front of the house, before spreading around to the side of the house and a field.

"Fortunately, they had aluminum siding," said Salem Fire Chief Nick Blanton. "If they had had vinyl siding, we probably would have been fighting a structure fire."

Blanton added the burn pattern of the fire shows it started in the ditch, and a cigarette butt was the likely cause.

After a quiet December, the Salem Volunteer Fire Department battled four brush fires the first week of the year.

"About all the area departments have been busy," Blanton said. "We are having unusual weather for this time of the year, as warm and dry as it has been. The National Weather Service says warm, dry weather with very low humidity and high winds are perfect conditions for grass fires.

The Salem Chief urged people to be very cautious about outside burning.

'Watch those cigarette butts,' the Olsons added.

"I was working when the fire occurred," said Sandra Olson. "When I came home and saw what had happened, I felt very fortunate to be coming home to a house that was still standing."

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