Special to The Chronicle
As Wilson County Emergency Management Agency personnel watered down what was left of a barn destroyed by a 15- to 20-acre brush fire Tuesday morning, WEMA Director John Jewell said he is wary of the July 4 holiday next week due to hot and dry conditions.“We are extremely worried about the Fourth of July,” Jewell said, referencing the amount of fireworks that will be purchased and used by local residents for the holiday.
With conditions as dry as they are, Jewell urged all citizens to take every precaution if shooting off fireworks this weekend and next week.
He said since June 1, county emergency personnel have fought 35 brush fires here, including a 70-acre fire in the Watertown area on June 8.
As of Tuesday, the agency added another to the list.
According to Jewell, WEMA received a call of a brush fire off Stockbridge Way and Central Pike in Mt. Juliet, around midnight Tuesday. After that fire was extinguished, another call came in around 4:30 a.m., which drew personnel from WEMA Stations 5, 3, 6 and some from Station 1 in Lebanon.
“It was about 15 to 20 acres and burnt two barns, no equipment, the barns were fairly empty,” Jewell said of the fire.
Jewell indicated the fire that was reported at 4:30 a.m. was most likely an extension of the first that was reported earlier. He said it was likely embers were left burning or possibly traveled by winds to ignite the dry grass a second time.
They were even more cautious with the second fire as crews continued to douse the area with water, bulldoze and rake through the destroyed barns and be sure nothing was left smoldering.
“It’s just extremely dry and any spark can ignite one of these fires,” Jewell said.
With the lack of rainfall and temperatures that expect to reach record highs later this week, Jewell said even things you wouldn’t think could start a fire pose a potential risk. He said anything from hot mowing equipment to farm vehicles could start a brush fire.
The Tuesday morning fire burned through fields behind Center Chapel Church of Christ at 9500 Central Pike and alongside the Wright Farms subdivision, but Jewell noted the homes were never in immediate danger.
“The fire burnt within about 75 yards of the homes, but they weren’t in any real danger,” Jewell said. “The Wilson County Sheriff’s Department got everyone up and out of bed, which was appropriate.”
He added that no one was evacuated from their homes, but he did advise residents to water their lawns to prevent wind from carrying any embers into the subdivision.
By 11 a.m., crews on the scene had demolished both barns and were watering down debris and fence lines to prevent any future sparks from igniting again.
“We’re trying to water down areas we may have missed,” Jewell said.
The cause of the initial brush fire was unknown with the investigation continuing.
Jewell issued warnings to local residents to be extremely cautious when celebrating the upcoming holiday.
He said to water the grass and surrounding areas when grilling outdoors and to do the same if you plan to shoot fireworks. Keep a supply of water on hand also to extinguish any sparks that may result from using fireworks.
At a time like this, Jewell said you can’t be too cautious.
Patrick Hall is a Staff Writer for The Wilson Post