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Officials suspect arson in New Fairview grass fires

By Erika Pedroza | Published Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Investigators believe the multiple grass fires along Farm Road 2264 in New Fairview Sunday were intentionally set.

The three blazes flared up within a mile of each other between Farm Road 407 and Hilltop Trail around 2:30 p.m.

Arson Suspected

ARSON SUSPECTED – An East Wise fire crew extinguishes one of three blazes in a multiple-blaze grass fire Sunday in New Fairview. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“We found remnants of fireworks at two of the three fires,” Wise County Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis said. “I believe someone was shooting fireworks from a moving vehicle. However, we don’t have any suspects or any witnesses at this time.”

There were no injuries or structures lost, but Travis said that smoke from a couple of the fires blew across the roadway, obscuring visibility.

“There was a bit of pandemonium there at the beginning,” he said. “Firefighters advised drivers not to drive through, but some drivers didn’t pay attention.”

Sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene for traffic control, but a quick response by East Wise, Rhome and Newark fire departments extinguished the fires and allowed the smoke to lift.

“We had 18 mile-per-hour winds and gusts up to 30 mph,” Travis said. “Once the fire started, it took off.”

The incident on FM 2264 was one of nine grass fires reported in the county over the weekend. Most of the others were small and handled by one fire department.

Travis believes the volume of calls is a sign of the chaos to come.

“The hard freeze killed off growth; we’re still in a drought; and because of the weird weather patterns, we’ll see a lot of high winds,” he said. “We are in for a busy grass fire season.”

Wise County is not under a complete burn ban, but burning is prohibited on “red flag” days as designated by the National Weather Service.

“This is an agricultural county, and we realize that a lot of folks need to burn off the brush. So there will be no (total) burn ban at this time,” Travis said. “We’ll monitor the number of grass fires, the temperatures and the high winds. But for now, people just need to be wary of the weather conditions before doing any kind of burning.”

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