Metro-East News

Brush fire burns on SIUE campus

A brush fire on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville was contained but not extinguished as of Saturday evening.

SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga confirmed that the fire was discovered about 9 p.m. Friday night as the Edwardsville Fire Department was conducting a training exercise and saw signs of fire coming from a ravine behind Bluff Hall.

The ravine is about 150 feet long and 30 feet deep, according to Lt. Jeremy Paschall of the Edwardsville Fire Department. Groundskeepers on the campus had been pushing logs, timber and other brush into the ravine for some time, and somehow it caught fire.

“The cause of it is still under investigation,” Paschall said. “It’s such a steep ravine that there’s no way to get down there for a proper investigation.”

Fire districts from Glen Carbon, Mitchell, Marine and Holiday Shores provided assistance and equipment, with Collinsville Fire Department standing by to assist Edwardsville.

The fire was contained to the ravine, but could not be fully extinguished, Paschall said.

“It’s still burning — mostly smoldering, but it is contained within the ravine,” Paschall said. “There is no way to access it to put it out completely right now.”

Paschall said ravines are ripe for fires because the walls provide a path for the flames to catch other things, and they can only fight it from the top down. “The steepness of the terrain is what’s causing the most trouble,” he said. It would not be safe to climb down into the ravine to fully extinguish it, as the logs on the bottom are all loose, he said.

The fire is being monitored by Edwardsville firefighters and SIUE Police, in hopes that the fire will burn itself out or be fully extinguished by the threatening rainstorm.

“It would be wonderful if it would rain,” Paschall said. “It’s spitting rain right now, but as we’re watching the radar, as it happens sometimes, the rain is going right around Edwardsville.”

Paschall said they believe the fire to be fully contained well away from the campus buildings. McIlhagga said Bluff Hall and the other freshman dorms are currently unoccupied during the summer session. The upperclassman residence hall is Evergreen Hall, which is a short distance away and currently occupied, as is Cougar Village, an on-campus apartment complex.

Edwardsville is currently constructing a satellite fire station that will be located near the residence halls along Circle Drive.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald