BECKEMEYER, Ill. (AP) _ Fields are so dry because of the drought that one farmer returning home from his fields after a day of harvesting winter wheat turned around and found the field behind him ablaze.

Regis Krebs of Beckemeyer, a town of 1,100 located 45 miles east of St. Louis, had pointed his combine toward home when he noticed the fire, which apparently was caused by a spark from the combine's muffler.

''I'd just as soon forget about it,'' Krebs said Tuesday. ''Luckily, it was just a minor fire. It just burned a little corner of the field.''

''He lost a couple acres of wheat in about 10 minutes,'' Beckemeyer fire chief Vincent Pollman said of the Monday night fire. ''Everything is bone dry and it went up quickly.''

Pollman said there's not a lot farmers can do to prevent those kinds of fires when fields become parched. Dry, brittle grass and straw need very little to ignite in drought conditions, he said.

''All it takes is a spark from a hot muffler, or for a bearing to go out and heat up,'' Pollman said. ''As dry as it's been around here, I'm surprised we haven't had more calls this summer. We need a good rain.''