Exceedingly dry conditions and blustery winds have been blamed for a recent rash of field fires, including a particularly busy day for area fire departments on Sunday.
Firefighters from around the region battled at least 17 reported fires, with 10 fire departments battling a large brush fire in the East St. Louis area.
The Chester Fire Department was paged for two brush fires reported eight minutes apart in the mid-afternoon hours, the first being reported at 3:40 p.m. The first was at 463 West German Street, the other on Kaskaskia Street north of the prison farm.
"Both of them seem to be grass fires," said Chester Fire Chief Marty Bert. "Someone was burning trash on German Street and it got away from him."
A witness told the Herald Tribune a yard was scorched in the German Street fire, but the flames did not reach a nearby residence.
There were no immediate details on the cause of the Kaskaskia Street fire, which was a small fire burning alongside the road, and has been ruled as undetermined.
"You have to be very aware that fires can start very easily," Bert said. "Everything is very dry right now."
The Steeleville Fire Department was paged at 1:08 p.m. for a field fire on Chester Road north of Bremen. Steeleville Fire Chief Rich Reitz told the Herald Tribune the property owner, Dana Derverseman, was burning brush piles when the fire took off.
"There was no property damage," Reitz said.
Elsewhere in the area, Campbell Hill and Evansville fire departments also responded to field fires. Sparta firefighters were paged to assist Evansville with a fire on Schuline Road east of Blinds Hollow Road.
Further away, West Frankfort, Benton and Goreville fire departments also saw action, with Goreville fielding multiple calls.
Bert cautioned homeowners about burning excess vegetation as they conduct maintenance of their properties in preparation for spring.
"With a little bit of wind, that stuff takes off faster than people realize," he said.
For those hoping for a break from the elevated fire danger, the next chance for significant rain is not in the forecast until Feb. 20.