MONMOUTH -- A large wheat field fire triggered about three miles outside Monmouth Saturday afternoon resulted in the loss of a fire response vehicle and a firefighter sustaining minor burns while battling the blaze.
The fire started when a piece farm equipment overheated, igniting a fire and sending a cloud of smoke throughout Monmouth and the surrounding areas.
Fire Chief Jason Cane said an incident command unit he was driving in the field caught on fire when some cut wheat got caught in the undercarriage of the Ford sport utility vehicle and subsequently caught fire. Cane said he sustained minor burns on his arm when trying to get out of the burning vehicle.
"It was a little exciting," Cane said. "An Expedition burns pretty well once it starts."
The vehicle was completely destroyed, however the fire was extinguished without further incident.
According to Captain Mike Kissell of Polk County Fire District No. 1, a belt on a mower being used broke, causing three separate fires in the same field.
Local dispatchers received the call at 12:04 p.m. Aug. 7. About 40 firefighters total, including 25 from the local district, were on the scene. The field is located at the intersection of Smith and Fishback roads.
Cane estimates about 52 acres were burned in the fire. Luckily for the owners of the field, the wheat had already been harvested; it was only the stubble in the field that was destroyed.
Although the firefighters were not worried about the fire reaching Monmouth, there was some concern about the flames potentially reaching a nearby house and barn.
"One edge of the fire was near a creekbed," explained Kissell. "They didn't want the flames to jump the creek" where the house and barn stand.
Cane advises people to use caution due to a larger that normal number of wheat fields in the county at this time. He said wheat burns more intensely than a typical grass fire and people should use care not to discard cigarette butts or other flammable objects around fields.
"People just need to be cognitive of that and take safety precautions," he said.