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Windmill Repair Gone Wrong

May 22, 2012

It started out as a simple repair job on an old windmill. The job wouldn’t take long. And the area around the old water workhorse seemed free of any nearby ignitables. So it seemed.

The farmer saw the flames out of the corner of his eye almost immediately after the arc was struck. The flames were small but things didn’t stay that way for long.

He made the 911 call quickly, but before firefighters could arrive the fire reached a monstrous shelter belt. The tree guard stretched several hundred feet north to south and as far as the eye could see to the west.

Like many shelter belts in Stafford County this one was a mixture of tree size and kind. Mostly Cedars and Cottonwoods.

Many of the Cedars were dead from pine disease and when the fire reached them it was like mini explosions. The intensity fueled the extreme heat of the wild fire, but at least the trees were consumed quickly. That wasn’t the case with the Cottonwoods.

Many of the Cottonwoods reached upwards of 80 foot into the clear blue sky. A peculiar thing about Cottonwoods is they can be three quarters dead on the inside – a perfect roman candle in waiting, waiting for ignition.

And that was what firefighters were dealt. Flash fires, roman candles, and an extra-comfort bed of ground mulch.

Firefighters first extinguished the grass. Then they stopped the fire on the west with a chain saw, hand work, and water approach. Afterwards they jumped over to the east and repeated the tactic.

Words really can’t describe the three hours of heat, smoke, and sweat.

But, the farmer knew the level of difficulty. He was very appreciate and sorry repair gone wrong.

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