Crews forge strategies for combating brush fires - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Crews forge strategies for combating brush fires

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With high winds and dry heat spreading brush fires across our region, firefighters need to implement a specific strategy to combat fires that often blanket acres.

"The best thing we fight these fires with is rakes and blowers," said Capt. Bradley Scott, with Malden Fire Department. "We don't usually break out the water until it reaches somebody's house."

Malden and Pinch Volunteer Fire Departments responded to a brush fire in Pinch on Wednesday afternoon. Crews said a car fire sparked the flames near Hunter Road, spanning anywhere between 30 and 70 acres.

Scott said with any brush fire, responders need to suppress and contain the flames in a central area. The hope is that the fire will burn itself out in time. Flames spread when high winds blow fire over the fire break line--or the perimeter firefighters create to sequester the blaze. On Wednesday, firefighters tried to blow air toward the top of the hill to better direct the flames.

"You can't bring a truck back here," said Chief 'Spark' Williams, with Malden Fire Department. "If we can get water to it and protect the line, that's the best avenue, but right now we don't have that access."

Williams added crews don't drag water or hoses deep through the woods unless the fire approaches a home.

The trick is finding a path through the brush where firefighters can gain access. That's Tom Oxley's job.

Oxley works for the West Virginia Division of Forestry in Kanawha County. The county boasts more than 520,000 acres of land, all which falls under Oxley's jurisdiction.

Oxley uses a mapping system that shows every hill, creek, pipeline, or gas line firefighters can avoid when carving out a path to the flames.

"In West Virginia, roads change daily," Oxley said. "The more man-made structures, the less taxing it is on the crew over a period of time."

Even though people are permitted to burn between 5 p.m. And 7 a.m. During fire season, Oxley said it's better to hold off on all burning until rain falls.