Janesville64.7°

Fire damages corn crop

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
October 31, 2007

A huge cloud of smoke billowed above a cornfield fire southeast of Janesville at 2947 S. Milton Shopiere Road on Tuesday afternoon.


“Flames were racing across the standing corn,’’ said Bill Ruchti, Janesville Fire Department shift commander.


The fire at Avalon and Milton-Shopiere roads in La Prairie Township was reported at 1:32 p.m. by retired Janesville firefighter Andy Duoss, who lives in Clinton and was in the area, Ruchti said.


“The fire was only 100 feet long when he called, and he said it was spreading fast,” Ruchti said. “With dry, standing corn it really went fast.”


To contain the fire in the 80-acre field, owner Gerald Frei called at least one neighbor for help. Frei had been in Avalon delivering corn when he saw the fire on his return trip, Ruchti said.


Neighboring farmers knocked down the corn with tractors and disks. Another used an endloader.


“They drove through in the areas that weren’t burning and knocked the corn down so the fire couldn’t continue to spread through the standing corn,’’ Ruchti said.


That allowed firefighters from Janesville, Clinton and Turtle Township to get their equipment into the field and contain the fire, Ruchti said.


“They did a huge amount of work,” Ruchti said, referring to the farmers.


Frei estimated he lost 40 acres of corn valued at $34,400, Ruchti said.


Although the cause of the fire is unknown, firefighters know where it started—along the road.


But they didn’t find a cause.


“We assume,” Ruchti said, “something was thrown out of a vehicle passing by.”



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