Quick thinking by a passerby and a 13-year-old boy saved the lives of several animals when a rodeo arena caught fire around noon Friday.
Jayson Burnam was passing by the arena on Farm Road 2264, several miles east of U.S. 287, when he noticed the wooden bleachers on fire. Burnam, a former firefighter, pulled over to try and help.
Erica Aguilar and her children were inside a home located in front of the arena. Her 13-year-old son, Jorge, rushed around back to help free several animals that were penned near the burning structure.
“First, we made sure all of us were safe, and then we were able to go for the animals,” he said.
The youth braved the black, billowing smoke to open the gate beneath the burning arena, where two horses and three dogs were housed.
“I went back to open the gate – it was really hot,” Jorge said. “I got hit by a big cloud of black smoke.”
Jorge managed to get all the animals to safety. The horses scampered about frantically in a pen as they watched teams of firefighters battle the blaze.
East Wise, Rhome and Decatur fire departments all responded to the scene. They worked quickly to keep the fire from spreading to nearby storage buildings or the home. Wise County Sheriff’s Department and Wise County medics also provided support.
“I don’t know how it could have started,” Aguilar said. “Nobody was back there.”
The home is owned by Primo Sierra, who runs Primo’s Taqueria with his wife, Margarita, in Decatur. He’s held many Mexican rodeos at the arena over the years.