O’FALLON, Mo. – Multiple fire departments from across Missouri helped crews in Cooper County with a brush fire that swept through thousands of acres, destroying homes and buildings in its path.
The low humidity, dry air, and high winds made for dangerous fire conditions.
“We really don’t even recommend a recreational bonfire or even a fire pit at this point because with those embers they can blow and, you know, boom. Next thing you know, you got a large fire on your hands,” said Andy Parrish, assistant fire chief for the O’Fallon Fire Department.
Parrish said Cooper County put out a state-wide call for help Saturday. Parrish said when the O’Fallon crew got to the brush fire nearly an hour later, the devastation was all around them.
“It’s a small community but they said pretty much every home was gone. The church was still standing and there was another building but it was just devastation,” he said. “Not to mention, you know, they had the homes but the homes and surrounding fields and stuff like that.”
Thousands of acres, homes, and buildings were destroyed. Parrish said the strong winds contributed to the fire spreading.
“Any fire is unpredictable, but with these high winds the winds can shift, and you may think you’ve got a handle on it, then it shifts and goes a different way, and they’re so spread out. They’re not contained,” Parrish said.
The assistant chief said the fall months bring dry conditions and it doesn’t take much to start a fire.
“A cigarette out the window. We haven’t had any today, but usually along I-70 on a day like today, you know, you’ll have little spot brush fires. So, people barbecuing the charcoal fed fires. The embers blow, that can set it off,” Parrish said.