Apparatus & Equipment, Fire Prevention & Protection, Firefighting

Manhattan Firefighters Thankful for Cornfield Fire Escape

Firefighters understand when they sign up for duty that peril comes with the job, reports

But when escaping a fire means blindly driving through smoke and flames created by a burning cornfield, after a long sprint just to make it to the safety of a fire truck, there’s something they may not understand, at least not immediately: “What the hell just happened?”

That’s what Manhattan Fire Protection District firefighter Matt Grohar said came to mind when what started as a small ground fire on a farm in Wilton Township in southern Will County last month suddenly raged out of control. Authorities later said the fire impacted up to six square miles to varying degrees, and 21 fire departments responded. There were no reported injuries and no houses destroyed in the rural area.

Grohar was one of three Manhattan Fire Protection District firefighters who were in a field, fighting the fire on foot, when gusty winds helped turn already-harvested fields of dry cornstalk stubs into an inferno. With their escape having provided an extra reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving, Grohar, 31, of Joliet; Brandon Phizenmaier, 32, of Morris; and Kyle McKenna, 27, of Manhattan, recently recounted their experiences from the Oct. 19 fire.

They had been assigned to protect an isolated home on Tulley Road, south of Wilmington-Peotone Road, nearly a mile from where the fire was believed to have been started by a piece of farming equipment, they said.

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