Charred soil and tire tracks left by brush trucks indicate where the grassfire was Saturday night. Before the fire was under control, some residents of Robin Ridge subdivision, in the background, were advised to evacuate.

Arson suspected as cause of grass fire that threatened a portion of Robin Ridge

Bob Foos

Residents at the south end of Robin Ridge subdivision were told to evacuate late Saturday night as a south wind was blowing a grass fire toward them.

Flames at one point were up to the power lines, says Jeremy Denton, the battalion chief on duty for the Webb City Fire Department.

Seven brush trucks (two each from Oronogo and Carterville, one each from Webb City, Carl Junction and Duenweg) responded.

“The guys did an excellent job (of controlling the fire) or it would have been a lot worse,” says Denton.

Additionally, the Webb City engine crew was protecting property in the subdivision, and Webb City police officers were alerting residents.

There were actually three fires within 30 minutes that Denton says he suspects were intentional. “Somebody was trying to start something,” he says.

Webb City firefighters were first called to put out a burning mattress on Gene Hatfield Drive just west of North East Street. That was just a 10-foot by 10-foot fire that was extinguished quickly, says Denton.

Back at the station 30 minutes later, a second call came in for a fire close to the site of the first one that was spreading.

The Oronogo Fire District was called because land between Gene Hatfield Drive and Robin Ridge is in their district.

As Webb City firefighters drove up North Main Street, Denton says they saw the “humungous” fire.

He estimates it took 10 minutes to get the fire under control, but it was after midnight before it was safe to leave the scene.

About 9 acres were burned south of Robin Ridge Saturday night. Burnt grass is also visible on the west side of North Main Street, but that was from a previous fire.

Firefighters were called twice within a half hour to this spot Saturday night. It is west of East Street on Gene Hatfield Drive