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Comanche County grass fire started by squirrel

Sterling Fire Chief Brian Lawson checks out the squirrel suspected of starting Monday's grass fire Sterling Fire Chief Brian Lawson checks out the squirrel suspected of starting Monday's grass fire

Comanche County_Officials say a squirrel caused a grass fire on a farm east of Sterling on Monday afternoon destroying 15-20 acres of grassland - primarily Bermuda grass.  The fire started shortly before 3 p.m., and firefighters from Sterling and Elgin spent about an hour extinguishing it.  Crews tended to hotspots as cows wandered around in the smoke. 

The fire did not damage any structures although it began about 30-yards north of a barn and some farm equipment.  Winds blew the fire to the north and east.  The Sterling Fire Department did not need to call in the fire marshal to determine the cause of the grass fire because 1-1/2 year old Bella the dog tracked down the furry culprit.  "I guess the squirrel started the fire," said Chief Brian Lawson.

After Bella carried the dead squirrel over to firefighters, they discovered that the squirrel's abdomen was freshly singed and scarred from a power line.  "The dog found the squirrel at the bottom of the pole so I guess it started the fire," said Lawson.  "He probably touched the pole and lines at the same time." 

Sparks flying onto the grass field below, combined with heavy winds, helped the flames spread quickly.  However, a neighboring wheat field helped to contain the fire since the crops are too green to burn.  "If the wheat field wasn't here, it'd be up the hill in those pine trees, and we'd be there until tomorrow," Lawson said.

The Elgin fire chief said it would have been a disaster if not for the wheat - both for the land, and the 150 cows.  The cattle in the field were able to move to safety, and happily followed a fire vehicle as it hosed down their grazing area.  Chief Lawson says this is the first time he has encountered a fire started by a squirrel.  The landowner said Bermuda grass scorched by the fire will grow back in the spring.

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