Property owner cited before second blaze

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, February 14, 2018
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Monday night’s fire on County Road 1637 was eerily similar to a tragedy that occurred on that property almost exactly four years ago.

When firefighters arrived just before 11:30 p.m., the scene looked much as it did on Feb. 6, 2014 – mobile homes engulfed in flames and burning debris with no clear path through the property.

LONG NIGHT – A firefighter faces a wall of flames while working to contain the blaze and keep it from spreading to neighboring homes. Crews were on scene from about 11:30 p.m. Monday to 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Although this week’s fire resulted in the loss of only material things, the 2014 fire was fatal.

Christopher Conn, 14, was trapped in his room after a space heater at the foot of his bed started a fire. Unable to escape, his remains were discovered in the ruins of the home hours after the fire was extinguished. He was an eighth grader at Chico Middle School and lived at the residence with his stepfather Johnny Hothouse, his mother and little brother.

According to a 2014 Messenger story, Hothouse received second- and third-degree burns to his arms, neck and face and suffered smoke inhalation as he attempted to pull the boy through a window to safety.

The community grieved with the family, giving monetary donations and helping to clean and clear the property.

Eventually the Hothouses moved back to the property, which is near Wise County Park, and over the course of time again let debris pile up and left numerous vehicles parked on the property.

Conditions had become so poor that on Nov. 30, 2017, Wise County Public Works Department issued a notice of violation of the Texas Health and Safety Code after receiving a complaint about an illegal dumpsite on the property.

New Public Works Director Keith Stone said according to the notice of violation, Hothouse had 30 days to clean up the property.

“They did nothing,” he said, describing the property as having “large piles of trash in the yard.”

On Jan. 18, 2018, a citation was issued for the same charge, and Hothouse was scheduled to appear in the Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Court on Feb. 8.

Judge Callie Manning said Hothouse failed to appear, and a show cause hearing is set, giving Hothouse 30 days to appear, account for his absence and address the charge.

Manning said if he does not appear for the second date, he would either be charged with failure to appear or a warrant would be issued for his arrest.

Manning said in reviewing the records of the Precinct 2 court, it appears this was Hothouse’s first citation for violating the Texas Health and Safety Code.

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