Fire consumes over 200 acres
Between 200 and 250 acres burned in a massive fire that started around 1 p.m. on Aug. 29 in Barry County between Pulaskifield and Farm Road 1100 along Highway BB near Midway.
The blaze started after a vehicle became unsecured from the trailer it was being hauled on and dragged along a four-mile stretch of Highway, sending a shower of sparks into nearby fields. Flames were driven by an east wind, complicating efforts by firefighters to extinguish the fire.
The vehicle, which was reported stolen out of Pierce City, was being taken to a local recycling center to be sold as scrap.
James Wogoman, 24, whose last known address was Aurora, was arrested and is being held in the Barry County Jail pending the filing of formal charges. Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly is asking that Wogoman be charged with knowingly burning and receiving stolen property in excess of $500.
"We had 13 agencies responding to this fire," said Nick Mercer, of the responding firefighters. "There was approximately 20 acres of land consumed by the fire east of Highway 37, including the remaining 200 or more acres west of 37 along Highway BB."
Complicating the firefighting efforts was a railroad line that dissected the impacted area.
"The minimum amount of damage to the railroad so far is $15,000," said Barry County Sheriff's Detective Doug Henry. "The railroad fire marshal is coming in to conduct an investigation as early as tomorrow. We'll have a better idea of the total amount of damage after his investigation."
Mark Mueller, from the Arkansas-Missouri Railroad, traveled to the scene from Springdale, Ark., to make an initial determination.
"We're looking at about three-quarters of a mile of track that has been damaged," Mueller said. "I have a train sitting in the yard that needs to get through. We're going to let him come through here at about 10 miles per hour as long as there are no hazardous materials on board."
At 4:44 p.m., the train had safely navigated the damaged track.
According to Monett Fire Chief Tom Jones, the crew on the initial responding Monett city truck reported the fire was much closer. Jones arrived right behind the first truck and called for more help.
"The number of brush trucks we had on scene made all the difference," Jones said. "We may not have saved all the buildings otherwise."
There was little hay and no cattle in the adjacent fields. Jones said the strategy in fighting the fire was to get in front of it and chase it.
"We were trying to keep it away from the railroad tracks," Jones said. "The wind blew it straight to the tracks. It wasn't easy. It burned really fast."
During the firefighting effort, an unrelated blaze broke out at around 3 p.m. in East Purdy, which resulted in six brush trucks and four tankers disengaging from the scene of the first fire to respond to that structure blaze, which was located at Farm Roads 1120 and 2085.
"We have the fire fairly well contained at this point," Mercer said at approximately 4 p.m.
Firefighters from Monett, Aurora Rural Fire Department and Purdy Fire Protection District remained on the scene for several hours to monitor the area for hot spots.
Other responding agencies included Purdy, Monett city, Monett rural, Freistatt, Pierce City, Pierce City rural, Aurora city, Aurora rural, Jenkins, Butterfield, Wheaton and Cassville. A brush truck from the Missouri Department of Conservation was also utilized.
The American Red Cross deployed volunteers to provide water and aid to firefighters. Two other American Red Cross representatives were dispatched to the fire in East Purdy where eight people were displaced when their home burned.
Monett city firefighters returned to their stations by 6 p.m.
Wogoman was previously convicted of knowingly burning or exploding charges in 2006, receiving stolen property in 2007 and two separate felony stealing charges in 2007 and 2008.