Farmers are first line of defense against field fires - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Farmers are first line of defense against field fires

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BUTLER COUNTY (KWWL) -

A warning to farmers in our viewing area:  High winds and dry fields are creating dangerous conditions.  It's forced several counties to declare "burn bans."  Friday, Butler County Emergency Management Coordinator Mitch Nordmeyer is taking it one step further -- asking farmers to do their part in preventing fires from spreading.

Butler County farmer Tom Ackerman is accustomed to dealing with whatever the weather throws his way.  But harvesting this week, is proving to be downright risky.

"This year it's something I've never seen, and I've farmed with my family for 40-some years.  It's just not like this very often, you know?" he noted.

Firefighters in Butler County have battled field fires every day this week, and that was before the winds picked up.

"It's gusting 31 miles per hour, and the weather service said we could still see gusts in the afternoon between 40 and 50 miles per hour," said Nordmeyer.

That's why Nordmeyer is asking farmers, like Ackerman, to be the front line of defense against spreading fires.

"If you've got an extra tractor, piece of tilling equipment, hook it up, at least have it sitting in the yard," Nordmeyer said.

He'd also like farmers to keep their eyes out for trouble as they make their way through fields.

"If they saw smoke somewhere in the area they could come and help us because, quite honestly with 50 mile per hour winds, the fire departments are not going to be able to stay ahead of a fire like that," said Nordmeyer.

Ackerman is one of many farmers who still have the bulk of their corn in the field, and it only takes a spark for the dry stalks to ignite in flames.

"Fire gets into that, it's almost like a forest fire at that point," Nordmeyer explained.

Ackerman isn't letting the weather stop him from harvesting, but it is forcing him to take extra precautions.

"Carry a fire extinguisher to protect yourself and the farm," he suggested. "Once it starts, it's out of control. There isn't a whole lot you can do."

Ackerman added, farmers should be vigilant about the machines they are using -- clean them often, and continue doing walk-arounds to check for possible hazards as the day goes on.

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