NEWS HEADLINES

Flaring up: Grass fires increase across county

By Erika Pedroza and Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, December 19, 2012

{{{*}}}The dangerous combination of low humidity and high wind speed made Sunday a “high fire danger” day.

In less than two hours, area agencies were dispatched to six fires. Fortunately, no structures were severely damaged, and the local blazes were contained to less than 100 acres.

However, most of them could’ve been prevented.

FIRE DANGER – Boyd, Cottondale, Rhome, Decatur and Newark fire departments responded to grass fire on Kristi Lane, north of Boyd, that scorched 12 acres, 20 round hay bales and cause slight damage to a home Sunday afternoon. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“We are in our second fire season. We have to be really careful,” said Randy Ingram, chief of Emergency Services District No. 1, which offices out of Boyd. “People need to pay attention to the weather conditions, the humidity, to the wind. Anytime the wind is too high – over 20 miles per hour – or the humidity is too low – less than 30 percent – we are at a high fire danger. And we will be until get a significant amount of moisture. Stuff is real tall, and it’s real dry. The big thing here is prevention.

“If we can prevent fires, then we are way ahead of the game.”

Last week county commissioners renewed a 90-day red flag warning burn ban at their regular meeting.

Under this type of ban, burning is not prohibited every day, only on those days that the National Weather Service issues a Red Flag Warning for Wise County. The last red flag day in Wise County was Sept. 13, 2011.

Sheriff David Walker told commissioners that if weather conditions don’t change, they might be forced to revert to a traditional ban.

“If we don’t get some rain, we’ll probably have to eventually change it,” he said.

A traditional ban prohibits all types of burning for 90 days, but during the three-month period there is often a buildup of grass and brush, which can potentially lead to more intense grass fires when they do occur.

The red flag warning ban was first put into place to prohibit burning on the most dangerous days, while allowing controlled burns on days deemed safe to help prevent the buildup of fuel.

FLAMES LICK AT COUNTY

Traffic on the Boyd fire channel was chaotic Sunday as the department fielded calls for two grass fires with a medical emergency in between.

“Fortunately, we have a great mutual aid system,” Ingram said.

In addition to assistance from the Newark Volunteer Fire Deparment with the medical call, the Boyd fire agency was also aided at the two grass fires. Rhome and Cottondale responded along with Boyd to an approximate four-acre grass fire on County Road 4680, believed to have been started by fireworks just before 1 p.m.

As the units cleared that scene, they were dispatched to a fire on Kristi Lane, on Farm Road 730 north of Boyd.

The blaze, which scorched 12 acres, 20 round hay bales and moderately damaged a mobile home, was started by a fire pit in the backyard of a home.

“We weren’t under a Red Flag so burning wasn’t prohibited,” Ingram said. “But it doesn’t take much. We’re mostly all volunteer departments, and there’s a big time delay in getting out to the scene.

“People need to understand that you can’t call 911 and expect to have someone out there in four minutes because we have volunteers leaving their full-time jobs and families to come to the station. Then you factor in the remoteness of some of these locations.”

Assistance was also provided by Decatur and Newark fire departments and Precinct 1, which provided a trackloader.

The largest of the fires was a 50 to 75-acre blaze sparked by outdoor welding on County Road 1736 near the Sand Flat community. Its department was assisted by Chico, Crafton and Bridgeport in the call that lasted fromo 1 until about 6:30 that afternoon.

The fire threatened a mobile home, but firefighters were able to extinguish it before it did any damage.

“There’s still a high level of fire danger, and that will remain until we get some rain,” Sand Flat Fire Chief Ken Carnely said. “It’s extremely dry. It doesn’t take much.”

A controlled burn the previous night on Farm Road 1655, three miles north of Farm Road 1810 near Chico, rekindled just after noon Sunday, kickstarting the slew of fires.

Alvord also responded. Although the fire was quickly contained, it was expected to smolder for several days due to the amount of timber involved.

Greenwood/Slidell volunteer firefighters, several who missed the majority of a children’s Christmas program at church, responded to two fires Sunday afternoon. Twenty round bales of hay and an acre burned in Eagle Canyon Raceway sparked by a racetrack car that malfunctioned.

Decatur assited Greenwood/Slidell with the call, which came in around 12:15.

After clearing from that fire, Greenwood/Slidell assisted Sanger with a grass fire at Rocky Ridge Ranch, just inside Denton County, which is under a burn ban, Greenwood/Slidell Fire Chief Adam North said.

It is believed to have been caused by a campfire that “got out of control.”

“People need to be cautious, need to be smart and aware of their surroundings,” North said. “Just because they see green grass doesn’t mean it’s OK. People also need to consider humidity, wind direction and speed.”

Ingram added: “If people are going to burn, they need to call the sheriff’s office to log it in, and the sheriff’s office in turn will share vital, helpful information on the burn ban.”

One Response to “Flaring up: Grass fires increase across county”

  1. Rose Stuber says:

    I think people that burn on a no-burn day should get a few days in jail in addition to the $500 fine. They are endangering other lives and property the same way one would do while driving under the influence.

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