2009 derecho creates hazardous fire conditions 9 years later - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

2009 derecho creates hazardous fire conditions 9 years later

Nearly nine years ago, a derecho swept through the Heartland damaging homes, businesses and trees in its path. (Source: KFVS) Nearly nine years ago, a derecho swept through the Heartland damaging homes, businesses and trees in its path. (Source: KFVS)
One area in Bollinger County along Highway 72 was a forest area filled with trees. After the storm came through, it knocked down nearly everything except for one tree in the middle in that area. (Source: KFVS) One area in Bollinger County along Highway 72 was a forest area filled with trees. After the storm came through, it knocked down nearly everything except for one tree in the middle in that area. (Source: KFVS)
MADISON COUNTY, MO (KFVS) -

It was one of the most devastating storms in the Heartland in recent memory.

A derecho swept through the Heartland damaging homes, businesses and trees in its path.

"It was approximately 10 miles wide came all the way across from west to east in our county," Cherokee Pass Fire Chief Bill Starkey said.

In many Heartland counties, trees fell down and have laid there in the same place for more than nine years now.

Madison County is dealing with a lot of that throughout their county. Brush has also grown around those trees which together have created a fire danger today. In addition to that, this might last for possibly the next decade or two.

"All this undergrowth that has came back in behind it and underneath it has created as much of a fire danger, if not more, that what it was after '09," Starkey said.

Now add in dry weather and it has reached a new level of concern.

Wednesday is a perfect example of how this debris has risen from a constant fire concern to a very dangerous situation. There was low humidity, little precipitation recently and windy conditions on Wednesday. That is a perfect scenario for a fire to get out of control and quick.

Starkey said they've had to deal with fires in these certain debris-filled areas too often. He feels that fighting these fires is a struggle which heightens the danger.

"Normally you can take a 3 or 4-acre fire and be done with it in an hour, an hour and a half maybe," Starkey explained. "In this, a 2 or 3-acre fire will probably end up being a 30 to 40-acre fire and maybe a two-day fire."

Cherokee Pass Fire Department is volunteer but sometimes struggle getting enough manpower for the job. Starkey said they do have some help from the U.S. Forestry and the Missouri Conservation Department but their crew resides a little further away which takes them longer to get there to help out.

"In that time frame it takes for them to get here, it's going to burn up several acres," Starkey said. "In this stuff, a 2-acre fire can easily become a 100-acre fire before it's all over with."

Bollinger County Emergency Management Agency Director Kevin S. Cooper said they have some concern as well, as they have a couple areas of downed trees and growth from the derecho too.

One area in Bollinger County along Highway 72 was a forest area filled with trees. After the storm came through, it knocked down nearly everything except for one tree in the middle in that area.

This is the same scenario in Madison County where the storm took out 90 percent of the trees in the Amidon Memorial Conservation Area Starkey said.

Cooper wants people to be careful when burning anything such as trash. He said they need to watch it very carefully and have their phone handy to call 911 if needed.

Starkey issued an advisory for all residents in the county to cease burning immediately and until further notice due to the very dry conditions along with the debris and undergrowth.

Starkey did add that if a person does burn there to make sure they have a hose near the fire that they can use and call for help if it gets out of control.

"I would like to ask the people on these high fire danger days not to burn," Starkey added. "It's such a danger with this stuff. It's not like putting out a leaf fire. Leaves you can put a line around and contain it. This you can't contain it!"

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