Crews battle Stones River Battlefield grass fire

Marie Kemph, The Murfreesboro Post, November 20, 2013

Firefighters contain blaze likely caused by cigarette

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Firefighters spent more than two hours Wednesday at Stones River National Battlefield battling a large grass fire that was likely caused by a lit cigarette, according to officials.

“The fire could possibly be from a cigarette that someone threw out a car window while passing by,” said Bill Reese, who works for the U.S. National Park Service, which oversees the historic park.

Assistant Fire Marshal Michael Bartlett, who works for the Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department, agreed, saying that the fire most likely started due to a discarded cigarette.

“We do controlled burns here to help maintain the grounds, but this wasn’t one of those times,” Reese said, noting that when the National Park Service performs controlled burns the area is secured by fire officials and closely monitored.

Reese said a third party first reported the blaze to the Fire Department, which notified him.

“When we got here, we discovered the flames were headed toward the asphalt,” Reese said. “At first, we were concerned about the fire jumping (across the street) where there are houses, but the road actually helped to contain it.”

Park officials estimate that roughly nine acres of land burned in the fire. Four electrical poles were also damaged during the incident, which occurred in the 1800 block of Wilkinson Pike near North Thompson Lane.

No one was injured as a result of the fire.

When firefighters arrived at the scene just after 2 p.m., officials said there was already a heavy amount of smoke, which could be seen from as far away as South Church Street, and large flames in the field. They quickly became concerned that the fire would spread to nearby woods, which would have made a bad situation much worse.

The wind spread the fire very quickly, said Murfreesboro firefighter Dale Maynard, who served as shift commander at the scene. It didnt help that most of the field was sagebrush.

The fire was burning so quickly that a cedar fence was barely damaged even though the fire had moved through it, Maynard said.

Given the situation, officers with the Murfreesboro Police Department shut down Wilkinson Pike to prohibit drivers from traveling near the area.

Crews from the Rutherford County Fire and Rescue Department, which owns three brush trucks specifically designed for these types of situations, also responded to the scene to assist Murfreesboro firefighters in battling the blaze.

Both the Murfreesboro Electric Department and Comcast Corporation have been notified about the damage to the utility poles and are working to restore any outages.

Officials plan to monitor the field over the next few hours in case any hot spots flare up, but the fire is fortunately extinguished — thanks in large part to the team efforts of all the agencies, Maynard said.

Our crews did an excellent job containing the fire to the field area,” he said. “We are very grateful for the assistance of Rutherford County.To view more photos of the fire at Stones River National Battlefield, visit The Murfreesboro Post online gallery.