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Fire units prevent woods blaze from destroying homes

By Ronnie Thomas 340-2438

PRICEVILLE — Bobby and Penny Robinson noticed smoke in the woods off Natural Bridge Road, near their Peek Road home, Friday morning at about 8:30.

"It didn't alarm us because they're always burning brush back in there," Penny Robinson said.

Hours later, after her husband left, she put her 4-month-old granddaughter, Madison Borden, in a baby backpack and went for a stroll.

"I met a man on the road who asked me if I lived nearby," she said, "and he pointed to the smoke and said, 'That's heading toward your home. You better get out of here.' "

The man was Van Geist, a firefighter and emergency medical technician with the Cotaco Volunteer Fire Department and president of the Morgan County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments. Also on the scene were units from Hartselle, Priceville, Somerville and the Morgan County Forestry Service.

Geist said central dispatch paged out units to the fire, about three miles south of Priceville, at 1:15 p.m. and that about 20 firefighters responded.

The Robinsons live at the end of Peek Private Drive, just below the home of Penny Robinson's father, Arnold Bolan.

Hartselle Fire Chief Steve Shelton said the fire came within about 10 feet of Bolan's barn.

"We're basically containing the fire within Natural Bridge Road and Peek Road," Shelton said, as he stood in back of the Robinson's home overlooking the valley between the roads.

"There's a crew at the southeast end of the valley and one in the west to cut off the fire and keep it from jumping the line and climbing toward the houses. We have a pumper at the west end, and Somerville has a brush truck. There are three barns and an old house there. We have a perimeter around it, and I don't see it spreading."

Bobby Robinson said, "We have two or three fires a year in the woods. I believe at times when it's as dry as it is today, they're started by someone tossing a lit cigarette out their car window. It doesn't take much."

He said the departments on the scene Friday were covering about 17 acres.

"This may be a blessing in disguise," he said. "This fire is burning up a lot of fuel before the next big fire that will probably come during the summertime, when it'll be really dry."

Late Friday afternoon, Shelton said that everything went well in containing the fire.

"There were some hot spots, but before we left, the forestry service arrived with a bulldozer," he said, "to make a fire stop around the perimeter."

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