SOUTH SHENANGO TOWNSHIP, PA— One firefighter was injured in fighting a blaze caused by a tractor fire that eventually engulfed about 40 acres of switchgrass adjacent to Route 322 on Sunday afternoon.
“That’s a bad fire,” Assistant Chief Tom Luckock of Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department said of the blaze that was reported at about 1:50 p.m. “This stuff (switchgrass) was designed as a biofuel, and when it goes up, there’s no stopping it.”
He was unable to provide details on the injured firefighter.
The brush fire originated from a tractor, according to Luckock.
“The tractor that was brush-hogging it (the switchgrass field) down caught fire,” he said. “Then the brush caught fire.”
The field, located about 2 miles north of Jamestown, is adjacent to 4886 Route 322. The road was closed to traffic while firefighters brought the blaze under control.
“We had to shut it down because the smoke was so thick going across the road you couldn’t see,” Luckock said.
Winds of up to 17 mph likely contributed to the spread of the brush fire, according to Luckock, who said the cause of the tractor fire was not clear.
Firefighters set up to protect nearby structures and used back-burning to prevent the fire from spreading. Back-burning involves the setting of controlled fires to consume material that would otherwise add fuel to a brush fire, according to the International Association of Fire and Rescue Services.
Jamestown firefighters were back at the firehouse at approximately 5 p.m., Luckock said. Crews from Summit, Conneaut Lake, Fallowfield, North Shenango, Linesville, Greenville, Hempfield and West Salem fire departments also responded to the scene.
The fire was one of several involving switchgrass in the area, according to Luckock.
“We’ve had two other fields that caught fire with this stuff,” he said. “They’re no longer using it as a biofuel so now we’re stuck with fields of this stuff.”