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Farmers Leave Harvest To Fight Fires

September 17, 2012, 5:07 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Farmers Leave Harvest To Fight Fires

Responding to fires can be especially taxing on volunteer departments this time of year because many of their firefighters are farmers who have a lot of work to do themselves.

It's about time to start harvesting his beans, and Andover Fire Chief Torre Raap knows he could get paged to an emergency at any time.

"Most of our guys on our departments around here do farm. And when the fire pager goes off, you leave the field," Raap said. "But it is what it is in a rural area."

Of the roughly 20 volunteers on the Andover department, about two-thirds work in agriculture so it would be tough if they all took harvest time off. Surrounding departments need to send farmers during harvest too.

A structure fire in Andover Sunday demonstrated that.

"We did have embers and ash drifting close to half a mile away from the fire site," Raap said.

So the danger of it spreading from the storage building containing flammable materials was high. Because of the threat, multiple departments responded. Some volunteers even from the other towns shut down harvest to do so.

As a farmer himself, that's a routine Raap knows.

"It's just being in a rural area," Raap said.  "If it was my field on fire, I'd sure appreciate my neighbors coming to help. It's just the neighborly thing." 

And with this year's dry conditions, Raap fears local volunteers may have to show that neighborly kindness a little more often.

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