Small Fire Departments Struggle To Keep Up With Grass Fires

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It's the busiest time of year for rural firefighters.

As the warm weather dries out land, fires rage, scorching acres. Small departments struggle to keep up.

"IT stretches everybody's limits to the maximum," said Michael Thornburg, Asst. Fire Chief of Owosso Township.

Thornburg's department is made up of 25 volunteers, 14 of whom were on hand as a fire destroyed several acres along Morrice Road, Friday afternoon.
With such limited resources, Thornburg wasn't surprised when he had to call on three other departments for help.

"During the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, we're short of people sometimes," he said.

"We depend a lot on mutual aid from the surrounding departments to help us out, which is true with all the rural departments," adds Russ Stowe, Asst. Fire Chief for the Stockbridge Area Fire Department.

With four townships to worry about, the Stockbridge Area Fire Department has seen several grass fires in the last week. They've also had to aid nearby departments, like Leslie.

"We all help each other when we can and at the same time, they're short-staffed too, so we try to get out there, get the job done," said Stowe.

It's a constant strain for departments that in many cases can be avoided.

"Don't burn until wetter conditions or we have greener vegetation or burn in a proper container," said Thornburg.

It could be the difference between stopping a fire quickly, or letting it burn for hours.

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