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Fast-moving Blaze Began as Grass Fire

Evansville Courier & Press

May 24, 2011

Fire officials say a three-alarm fire that destroyed a garage and four vehicles at a northern Vanderburgh County property Sunday morning started as a grass fire.

Homeowner Thomas Wilson, 69, is the only person who lives at 9301 Old State Road, about a half-mile north of East Mount Pleasant Road, and he was not injured in the blaze.

The fire was reported at 11:19 a.m., and firefighters from the McCutchanville, Scott Township, German Township and Ohio Township fire departments responded. The first ones on scene encountered a fire engulfing a rear garage that threatened the house and a neighboring property.

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One crew of firefighters went through the front of the smoke- filled house to push the advancing fire out the back, McCutchanville Fire Department Assistant Chief Randy Mitchell said.

Another crew was at the source, battling a fire that had scorched a utility pole, charred most of a 60-foot- tall tree and burned a section of a wooden fence.

Firefighters tapped the blaze out in about 30 minutes, Mitchell said.

The fire started when Wilson tried to burn a pile of sticks in his backyard, he said. It caught dry foliage and spread, and his attempts at extinguishing it were unsuccessful.

“I couldn’t get my hose working,” said Wilson. “Everything went wrong that could go wrong. Then the wind caught it, and that was about the end of it.”

The National Weather Service had issued a Red Flag Warning for the region Sunday as gusty, sustained winds reached 30 mph and some gusts pushed 50 mph. Combined with low humidity and relatively dry vegetation, there was an enhanced risk of fire.

“The windy conditions helped the fire just grow,” Mitchell said.

The fire destroyed two Volkswagen Beetles, a pickup truck and a sedan, all of which appeared to be older models. It also destroyed a carport roof and a room at the house’s rear.

Mitchell said except for the rear room, the house is habitable, but there’s no electricity.

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