PEMBROKE TOWNSHIP — Dry, sandy soil and gusty winds make it easy for brush fires to ignite.
That was the case Monday as an unattended fire in the 7000 block of South 17000E Road in Pembroke led to firefighters battling two blazes for more than four hours. Firefighters were back at the scene Tuesday afternoon and evening as the fire had rekindled and began claiming more acres. They were then on scene again Wednesday for the same reason.
“It must be 200 to 300 acres, and that is probably low-balling it,’’ Pembroke Fire Chief Mark Baines said when asked how much land was scorched.
“People all know that when it is dry and windy, don’t burn. And if you do, don’t leave the fire unattended,” he said. “I have heard people so many times say they just went into the house for a minute. Why take the chance of putting your life or the life of your neighbors at risk?”
The brush fires brought in firefighters from around the area and Newton County, Ind., to get the blaze under control.
At one point in the first round of Tuesday’s fight, firefighters were ordered out of the fire area. Baines said a firefighter was unaccounted for as the flames and smoke were whipped around by winds gusting between 20 and 25 mph. Once the firefighter was located, Baines said, it was back to battling the blaze that was so big, crews were hitting it from three different sites.
Tuesday’s second fire began around 6 p.m. and was not wrapped up until 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Local farmer Scott DeYoung plowed ground that allowed firefighters to set a back burn to stop the fire from spreading, Baines said.
There have also been brush fires in Otto Township and the Essex area this week.
Due to gusty winds forecasted and dry soil conditions this week, the National Weather Service Chicago office posted an elevated fire risk for north central and northeast Illinois and northwestern Indiana.