EDINBURGH, Ind. (Republic/WISH) - Camp Atterbury is attempting to extinguish vegetation fires in the post's impact zone by using helicopters to haul and dump water on them, 24-Hour News 8's news partner, The Republic in Columbus, reports.
Col. Todd Townsend, post commander of Camp Atterbury, said the base will run helicopters all day and night until the fires are extinguished. Since the fires began last month, about 2,400 acres have burned. Friday, crews worked on about 10 acres that were burning.
Friday before 9 p.m., Atterbury officials told 24-Hour News 8 they were still working on the situation. Helicopters were grounded for Friday night, but were expected to be flying again in the morning.
Townsend said the fires are contained within the base's impact zone and there is no danger of the fires spreading to structures or neighboring properties.
The base will also implement some restrictions on ordnance that can be used, temporarily limiting the use of tracer rounds and aircraft-dropped flares.
Townsend said the base began using two Blackhawk helicopters to ferry the water at about 10:30 a.m. Each helicopter is equipped with a "Bambi bucket" that holds 660 gallons of water.
Capt. Jessica Halladay said the National Guard helicopters from Shelbyville are transporting water from Puff Lake.
Smoke has been hanging in the air over Camp Atterbury and neighboring communities, and the smell has been a problem for some people, particularly in the morning.
State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, said he received complaints this morning about the smell.
"A man called me about the smoke and smell. He said he had a difficult time driving to work," Smith said.
Smith called Col. Todd Townsend, the post commander, to find out what was being done to extinguish the fires. Townsend told him about the helicopters.
Camp Atterbury has been dealing with fires for about three weeks.
Grass fires initially started Oct. 21 when a flare went into the impact zone, a section of the post that contains unexploded ordnances. Smoke filled the area and was visible in Taylorsville, Edinburgh and Columbus.
Smoldering fires in the impact zone have continued burn the dry vegetation, causing smoke to accumulate in area communities. A flare dropped during an aviation exercise Tuesday sparked another fire.
Atterbury normally burns off vegetation in the area, but controlled burns had been suspended because of the dry weather and fire danger. Vegetation that grew back was lit by the flares.
Camp Atterbury said Thursday is has been conducting overnight burns to try to burn off the remainder of the vegetation in the impact area.
The resulting smoke has caused complaints.
An environmentalist who is working with Atterbury on the matter said as of Thursday there was no concern about the air quality because it was just foliage burning, Halladay said.
But, temperatures only dipping into the 30s and 40s at night are holding the smoke in the air, making the situation a problem for people in the morning.
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