Five firefighters were injured and nine structures were damaged or destroyed in a fire that started Thursday afternoon (Feb. 15) and spread to 12 acres off Peter Moore Lane west of De Soto before it was put out several hours later, said Assistant Chief Tom Fitzgerald of the Rural De Soto Fire Protection District.
Three of the injured firefighters were treated at the scene and two were transported to Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Crystal City with non-life-threatening injuries, Fitzgerald said.
He said one of the firefighters who went to the hospital was a Mapaville firefighter who had an injured shoulder, and one was a De Soto Rural firefighter who was suffering from exhaustion and dehydration.
Of the nine structures affected by the fire, a barn and all of the outbuildings were destroyed, and two homes were damaged, Fitzgerald
In addition, numerous animals were killed in the blaze, he said.
Jefferson County 911 Dispatch began getting calls about the fire around 1 p.m., Fitzgerald said.
“People were seeing smoke but they didn’t know where it was coming from,” he said.
An off-duty firefighter followed the smoke and was the first one on the scene, about a half mile south of LaChance Vineyards, Fitzgerald said.
A barn was on fire and there were high winds, said Fitzgerald, who added that he checked the wind conditions on the way to the fire.
“It was at 14 miles per hour gusting to 29 miles per hour,” he said.
By the time Fitzgerald arrived at the scene, the brush fire encompassed about 8 or 9 acres, but spread to 12 acres before it was controlled, he said.
Some of the outbuildings that were destroyed were animal pens, and many animals perished in the fire, including 16 goats, chickens and geese, Fitzgerald said.
The two homes that were damaged can still be occupied, he said.
“The exterior of the homes caught on fire and our crews were able to stop the fire before it got inside the homes,” he said.
Firefighters from Jefferson County assisted with the call, and after “we exhausted all the resources in Jefferson County,” firefighters from the St. Louis metro area and neighboring counties responded to the fire, Fitzgerald said.
Firefighters from as far as Pattonville, Spanish Lake and St. Charles assisted, he added.
Rain eventually began to fall and helped the situation, he said.
Firefighters were on the scene until about 8:30 p.m., Fitzgerald said.
Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office were expected to return to the scene today (Feb. 16) to see if they could determine the cause of the fire, he said.
“We do not believe it was suspicious,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said someone may have had a fire outdoors and thought it was out but then it sparked back up and spread.
He said there was some indication that the barn that was destroyed had faulty wiring and maybe the fire started there.
Fitzgerald said people drove to the scene to see what was happening, causing traffic problems in the area and problems for firefighters.
“We need firefighters and firetrucks,” he said. “Please fight the urge to come and be nosy.”
Fitzgerald said the small amount of rain that fell on the county last night will not reverse the drought in the area. As a result of the drought, people are advised against burning brush or trash.
“People just don’t realize how long a pile of ash will stay hot,” he said.
The National Weather Service has forecast a moderate fire danger through April.
A fifth alarm was struck about 2:30 p.m. to bring in even more firefighters after another large brush fire encompassing about 10 acres was reported near Klondike and Knorpp Road in the De Soto area, Fitzgerald said.
The Saline Valley Fire Protection District was first on the scene to that fire. No homes were near that blaze, but firefighters had to work to protect a nearby communication tower, he said.