Fire destroys 300 acres of land

According to officials, the first fire was reported to Tharptown Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Barry Campbell around 2 p.m. Saturday.

“I was actually in my personal vehicle when I received the call so I got there ahead of the fire department,” Campbell said. “When I saw how widespread the fire was, I called 911 from my cell phone and told them we needed more than one truck to respond.”

Since the fire scene was in Tharptown’s coverage area, their volunteer fire department was the first to respond.

The fire began on the east side of County Road 83 and jumped to the west side of the road where it continued to burn through timberland and farmland.

“We did everything we could to keep the fire contained,” Tharptown Volunteer Fire Department Chief Doug Hatton said. “There were three structures destroyed in this fire, but there could have been many more lost if the people working on this fire hadn’t kept it contained.”

According to Hatton, the fire jumped into the median of Highway 24 but thanks to quick action, that fire was extinguished before it could continue on to the south side of the highway.

Officials estimate that 250 to 300 acres of land were damaged in Saturday’s fire.

“We spent around nine and a half hours at the fire scene on Saturday,” Campbell said,“ and we were called out three separate times on Sunday with hot spots flaring up.”

After two solid days, officials say that this first fire is now under control.

“This fire could have been so much worse,” Hatton said.

“We really appreciate all the different departments that helped us.”

But even though the first fire is under control, the Tharptown Volunteer Fire Department responded again on Tuesday to a second fire located just down the road from the first fire scene.

Officials believe this second fire is unrelated to Saturday’s fire. 

At 3 p.m. Tuesday the estimated damage of this second fire was around 75 acres and it was still uncontained.

“The Alabama Forestry is out there with dozers trying to keep the fire from spreading,” Hatton said. “It looks like we may be here for a while.”

Hatton continued to express how vital the assistance from other departments has been throughout the course of these two fires.

“We’ve tried over the years to develop good relationships with other established and volunteer fire departments in the area,” Hatton said. “Events like this show how important these relationships are.”

Assisting the Tharptown Volunteer Fire Department over the course of these two fires were the Russellville Fire Department, Blue Springs Volunteer Fire Department, East Franklin Volunteer Fire Department, Littleville Volunteer Fire Department, Alabama Forestry Commission and individual volunteers with Belgreen and Frog Pond.

“We also want to thank the 911 center, officers with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and State Trooper’s post, Ray Hill with the Tharptown Neighborhood Watch, M&N Wrecker and Service Center and the citizens of the community who brought us drinking water,” Campbell said. “We couldn’t have been nearly as efficient in these situations if it hadn’t been for these people.”

Hatton also stressed that events like these show the importance of volunteer fire departments in the area.

“With the exception of Russellville, every department that responded to these situations was a volunteer department,” Hatton said. “We have fifteen volunteer fire departments in Franklin County, but we don’t have near enough people working with them. We could always use more people and it doesn’t have to just be people willing to fight the fires. We need people in all sorts of capacities to help.”

Campbell added that these volunteers are well trained and highly dedicated.

“Not everyone wants to spend an entire weekend fighting a fire in the heat and giving up time with their families,” Campbell said, “but these people care about their communities and it really shows in their dedication and the work they do.”

Hatton pointed out that because of these fires, the community needs to be aware that now is not the time to be burning anything.

“The smallest spark right now can turn into a bad situation,” Hatton said. “People need to be aware that even a discarded cigarette thrown out the window can turn into a large fire.”

The cause of both fires is still under investigation by the Alabama Forestry Commission.

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