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Fire burns 400 acres; Slidell school evacuated as precaution

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, November 4, 2017
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Scorched Earth

SCORCHED EARTH – A grass fire devoured the countryside Thursday afternoon near Slidell. Ten fire departments were called to help battle the blaze. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Firefighters from departments across Wise, Denton and Montague counties battled a large grass fire near the intersection of Farm Roads 51 and 455 Thursday afternoon in Slidell.

The blaze, which burned nearly 400 acres, was sparked from a mower blade striking a rock, according to Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard.

“That’s just how dry it was,” Beard said.

Summer-like temperatures in the low 90s, humidity levels in the teens and southern gusts up to 23 mph fueled the fire that was reported shortly before noon.

“It was a recipe for disaster,” Beard said.

Plan of Attack

PLAN OF ATTACK – Trucks were stationed at various locations to stop the fire. “Firefighters did a great job using natural barriers to contain it,” said Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Greenwood-Slidell Fire Chief Adam North said the blaze originated off FM 51 and spread. Both FM 455 and 51 were closed as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze.

Fire lines were set by members of the U.S. Forest Service along the two roads to try to contain it south of 455 and east of 51. It briefly jumped 455 and burned an additional 400 yards before being extinguished.

Slidell schools were evacuated as a precaution.

“We had just started our last lunch and made the decision to get kids off campus,” said Slidell ISD Superintendent Greg Enis. “We loaded five school buses and headed toward Sanger.”

The elementary and middle school students were taken to a park, and the high school students to eat in Sanger. After getting word from North that the fire was contained, students were brought back to campus shortly after 3 p.m. Bus routes in the district ran as normal.

“They still had 455 and 51 blocked off, and we had to make some adjustments and use some county roads to get everyone home,” Enis said.

Two tank trucks from Quasar Energy Services out of Gainesville supplied water at the scene to fire tankers.

“Our owner drove by, and said ‘It looks like they need help,'” said Ryan Sicking. “We brought them a little water.”

In addition to Greenwood-Slidell, other fire departments on scene were Decatur, Alvord, East Wise, Forestburg, Krum, Sanger, Lake Cities, Coppell and U.S. Forest Service. Wise County medics and the Department of Public Safety also assisted. Troopers led traffic down FM 51.

No structures or vehicles were damaged in the fire.

“[Firefighters] did a great job using natural barriers to contain it,” Beard said.

Firefighters were called back to the scene multiple times Thursday evening and Friday morning as small areas rekindled.

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