OAKLAND, Iowa (AP) - Four families lost their homes over the
weekend in a grass fire that destroyed thousands of acres of land
in eastern Pottawattamie County, causing up to $5 million damage.
Carson Fire Chief Jeff Sowers said Sunday's fire was the worst
blaze the department has battled.
He directed 200 firefighters from 17 area departments in putting
out the fire, which spanned a 12-mile area shaped like a baseball
bat. Two of the firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and
released from the hospital.
Officials said no cause has been determined, but some reported
that a house fire sparked the fire. Others said someone was burning
a hollow tree trunk when wind took hold of the blaze.
"It was truly an accident," Oakland fire inspector Steve
Hamilton said. "There's no thought that it was any kind of
arson."
Mark and Susan Beedle lost their farmhouse in the grass fire.
"I got a call that it was coming this way," said Marsha
Beedle, Mark's sister-in-law. "We got nothing out except valuable
papers. We didn't have time."
The other families left homeless are: Kenneth and Nancy
Finnegan; Galen and Marjorie Batten; and Sherman and Shelly Rhoten.
Water had to be trucked into the rural areas, where there are no
fire hydrants.
Marsha Beedle said firefighters couldn't get the water to her
brother-in-law's home fast enough, and he, his wife, and children
Nick, 16, and Jayme, 13, were left only with the clothes they were
wearing.
She said her home, which is next door, wasn't damaged.
"You can tell where the black is how close it got," she said.
The fire also damaged bridges, vehicles, farm equipment and
fences. Officials said some wildlife were killed including wild
turkeys, pheasants and some deer.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)