The Potosi Fire Department was kept busy Tuesday with brush fires and a salvage yard fire. Several firefighters were transported to Washington County Memorial Hospital for treatment Tuesday evening.
Potosi Fire Chief Roger Lachance said they had been out since 1:30 a.m. Tuesday battling brush fires and then the fire at Brothers Auto Salvage and Recycling.
“We are beat,” said Lachance. “The fire at the salvage yard was dispatched as a one or two vehicle fire, which we figured wouldn’t be the case in a junk yard. When my assistant chief and others arrived there were about 15 cars on fire.”
Lachance said he was out in Bismarck assisting them with a fire and when he came back he could see the smoke from the salvage yard all the way out in Belgrade.
“The fire spread to other cars. We have never been to a junkyard where only one or two vehicles were on fire,” Lachance explained. “Those cars are always piled on one another and we are estimating there were around 15 vehicles on fire.”
Lachance said there were some explosions too, but he wasn’t sure if it was the gas tanks blowing or not.
Several departments assisted Potosi and Lachance said he called for a tanker task force from St. Francois County, Jefferson County and Ste. Genevieve County.
“We had four of our own firefighters go down and one from De Soto Rural,” said Lachance. “Most of it was fatigue and heat exposure, there was nothing really major. All five of them were taken to the hospital to be checked out and were released later in the evening. Their potassium was down and a little bit of (carbon dioxide). We had a big brush fire before that and you are going to pick up some of that stuff in your system.”
Lachance said they were shuttling people in and out of the salvage yard because they were trying to keep the road clear for tankers to get in. Everything they had was tied up and they needed a lot of water. They were at the salvage yard for approximately four hours.
“They never did say how the fire started, but they had excavators working back there,” said Lachance. “I don’t know if they sparked a gas tank or popped one while moving cars around, it’s just a guess.”
Early Tuesday morning they were called for a brush fire in Indian Creek off Highway 185. Lachance said there were some old cars, an outhouse and an old shed that burned out there.
“They thought it was someone who was out there hunting and they started it,” said Lachance. “We ended up with about 70 acres that burned and the problem was that we couldn’t get our big trucks down in there because the road and the bridge was so narrow.”
He said they had to do everything by brush trucks and walk in. They had to keep coming back out to refill the trucks and go back in.
“We just couldn’t get any big truck or tankers down in there, so we had to stage at the top of the hill,” said Lachance. “They would go down and put water on it, but a lot of it was leaf blowers and rakes.”
He added there weren’t any homes lost and no one was hurt on that one. Lachance said they were out there for a long time and they had bring a dozer in. They were fighting that fire for about 12 hours and that was why everyone was so beat.
“We had a bunch of brush trucks on that fire,” said Lachance. “We had a bunch of departments out there on that one too. We had been out helping everyone else up until yesterday. It was just a matter of time before we had something.”
Lachance wanted to thank everyone who came out to assist them with both the brush fire and the commercial fire.
Fire chiefs are urging residents to avoid burning in the current dry conditions. Contact your local fire department before burning.
Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or firstname.lastname@example.org