A brush fire that burned out of control briefly Tuesday morning on state-owned land near Fitchburg served as a strong reminder that dry conditions following a mild winter make this a dangerous time to be doing any open burning.
"Even though we received some rain (Monday), it wasn't enough because of the light winter we had," said Chad Grossen, a deputy chief of the Fitchburg Fire Department.
"This happens when you get the tall old grass like this with the wind," Grossen added. "It's just like somebody taking gasoline and throwing it out there. It moves so quick."
Grossen was unsure what started the brush fire on open Department of Natural Resources property just south of the Capital City Bike Trail and north of the Swan Creek subdivision in Fitchburg.
Grossen ruled out that the blaze started as a controlled burn. "It was not a planned event," he said.
The fire was reported at 11 a.m. as wind gusts up to 25 mph out of the south-southwest fanned 10-foot-high flames. It quickly gulped 30 to 40 acres of land before it was put out at 12:19 p.m., according to the Fitchburg Fire Department. Smoke from the fire could be smelled in southern parts of Madison.
DNR firefighters were joined by those from the towns of Blooming Grove, Madison and Oregon and the cities of McFarland, Middleton and Verona.
"The bike trail acted as a natural fire stop for us," said Grossen, who shook his head after he was asked what would have happened if the fire had jumped over the trail, which runs behind the developed areas around Fish Hatchery Road and the Beltline.
"The wind was out of the south-southwest," he added. "It would not have been good."
No structures were damaged, and Grossen said he didn't believe any homes were ever in danger, especially since two fire trucks were on standby to protect them. "We had it all covered," he said.