RIMER – The Allegheny River village of Rimer has had its share of water-related disasters over the years with ice jams and flooding inundating the small community on an almost annual basis.
But this year, the Madison Township (Armstrong County) community was hit last week with a massive brush fire that called for the efforts of more than 100 volunteer firefighters from 14 companies in three counties.
“It was a large brush and woods fire,” Pine Township-Templeton Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief Bill Cloak said after recovering from the marathon firefighting effort last Tuesday, March 30.
The fire originated along Craig Lane in Rimer, but spread across more than 40 acres of hillside woods and clearings.
Crews were called to the scene just before 1 p.m. and were there until about 8:30 p.m., Cloak said. They then had to return around 11 p.m. to continue fighting reoccurrences.
Cloak said the main focus was on keeping the fire away from the homes and other buildings in the village.
“That’s where the first efforts were, to protect the structures,” he explained, noting that no damage was reported to any buildings.
Firefighters from Armstrong, Clarion and Butler counties responded to the fire, with the Pine Township-Templeton crews being joined by those from Distant, Rimersburg, New Bethlehem, Hawthorn, Dayton, Sugarcreek Township, East Brady, Kittanning Township, Kittanning No. 6, Rayburn Township, West Kittanning, East Franklin Township and Sligo.
Additionally, members of the state’s Department of Forestry were on hand to assist, as well as Clarion Hospital EMS crews.
Cloak said two firefighters suffered injuries, although neither had to be transported to a hospital. He said one firefighter sustained burns to his hand, while another was hit on the head by a falling tree limb.
“The most important thing is we had no major injuries,” Cloak said.
As the scene’s manager, Cloak directed the many crews to various areas to battle the blaze, an effort that was hampered by multiple wind changes during the day.
“That’s what led to a lot of the acreage burning,” he said.
With so many firefighters and various pieces of equipment spread across a large area, Cloak said communication was key.
“We had really good communications with Armstrong and Clarion 911 centers,” he said.
Members of the community and Madison Township officials also pitched in by providing food and water for those battling the blaze.
“We greatly appreciate that,” he said. “Overall, including the support services, everyone did an excellent job.”
Cloak said that even after the main fires were put out, there were a number of trees still burning through the night. Forestry personnel stayed on scene until the rains came in the early morning hours.
“We were blessed with rain,” he said.
Cloak said that the Forestry department is investigating the cause of the fire; however, he urged everyone to use caution when burning outdoors.
“You just have to use common sense on dry days,” he said.