Firefighters Use Ingenuity, Leaf Blower To Fight Henryetta Grass Fire

Wednesday, March 12th 2014, 10:53 pm
By: Tess Maune

When it comes to fighting grass fires, there are times when the non-conventional way might be the only way.

That's especially true for some of Oklahoma's smaller, volunteer fire departments.

One department near Henryetta put out a fire Tuesday morning with a tool many of us might have in our shed.

In a perfect world, firefighters would obviously always prefer to use water.

But when Plainview Volunteer Firefighters couldn't their tank truck to the flames, they opted for a leaf blower instead.

With more than 30 years of firefighting experience between them, brothers Ron and Lester Sullivan know about being resourceful when it comes to putting out a fire.

After all, when the Plainview Volunteer Fire Department started up 17 years ago, it essentially had no equipment to work with.

"We were actually pretty well-known for our rakes. We just had several guys in the back of the truck with rakes," Ron Sullivan said.

The department has all the necessary tools now, but in rural Oklahoma, sometimes getting to the flames is a bigger challenge than putting them out.

"You'll have some cow trails, you'll have some tractor trails, and with the recent winter weather we had, a lot of this area is soft where the truck can get stuck," Ron Sullivan said.

And that was exactly the case around 4 p.m. on Tuesday morning.

Cell phone video shows the fire snaking through about 300 yards of a field that is surrounded by a creek.

"It was going pretty good," Lester Sullivan said. "…So at that point we knew we were gonna have to get our rakes and leaf blowers and head after it."

The leaf blower is something Lester says he typically uses in wooded areas to cut a path through dry leaves, which helps stop a fire.

But with no water, he turned it toward the fire.

And since no homes were in its path, he started recording, too.

It's easy to think, "Isn't the leaf blower just going to cause the fire to spread more?"

Well not necessarily, the Sullivan brothers say that's where experience and training come in.

"I would not try it at home, it's not as simple as blowing out a candle on a birthday cake," Ron Sullivan said. "There is skill set and technique that's involved."

And a little ingenuity, too.

"In certain situations, like last night, it was just perfect that the humidity was high, the wind was just right," Lester Sullivan said.

And it worked, with just the two brothers, a leaf blower and a rake. The flames were under control within 45 minutes without a drop of water.

The heavy wind actually was to blame for that fire. The Sullivans say the wind blew over an old tree, and it knocked over a power pole, which sparked the flames.

The brothers said the leaf-blower technique is an accepted one in the industry and other fire departments also use it in a pinch.