A rapidly moving fired spread to at least 30 acres of Woods Thursday night in the 9800 block of W. Ratliff Road east of Ellettsville.
Firefighters responded to the blaze just before 9:30 p.m. as the flames were consuming the woods. Ellettsville assistant fire chief Chris Clouse said the fire was in the trees above fire fighters heads, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources was immediately called to assist. The fire traveled through the woods and over a hill as it was fanned by winds during Red Flag fire conditions.
Red flag conditions are a combination of warm temperatures, low humidity and strong winds, which can spread a fire quickly. Clouse said local firefighters aren’t equipped to deal with wild fire conditions.
Firefighters from Owen Valley, Van Buren, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Bean Blossom, assisted the Ellettsville Fire Department. Emergency services workers from IU Health Bloomington were also on the scene to assist firefighters.
Clouse said this is only the second time he’s ever called the DNR to assist with a fire. DNR firefighters with wildland fire fighting experience quickly helped create a perimeter and cut down some trees to stop the spread of the fire. However, firefighters expect to be on the scene at least through Friday because of the hot spots that continue to smolder in the woods, which can easily reignite. Firefighter had difficulty stopping the fire initially and it jumped one fire line before containment. At least two structures were threatened, but suffered no damage.
Firefighters from the Owen County Fire Department said they’d already fought a 35 acre fire on Kirby Road in Northern Owen County Thursday, and were grateful that a person with a dozer was able to cut a fire perimeter in the woods to help stop the fire.
Firefighters have fought at least a half dozen large brush fires in the Monroe and Owen County areas in the past couple weeks, and firefighters said without rain, they’d likely be looking at another day or two of red flag conditions through the weekend.
During red flag conditions outside burning is not recommended. The cause of the Ratliff Fire is still under investigation.