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Salvaging hope: Residents count losses, blessings after wildfire

By Austin Jackson | Published Wednesday, August 8, 2018
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From the Ashes

FROM THE ASHES – Barclay Salvage Yard owner James Barclay stands next to his ‘masher,’ which was lost in the blaze that torched much of his property and 450 acres of land in Alvord last weekend. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Fire engines from more than 20 departments have come and gone, media and U.S. forest service helicopters have made their passes, and Monday, at the Barclay Salvage yard in Alvord, James Barclay can only look out from his yellow lifter and sweep up the ash that was the salvage yard he’d owned for 40 years.

Barclay, 67, has seen some fires in his time at the yard, but nothing like this. This was the big one.

Now, all Barclay can do is salvage the unsalvageable as he looks over the acres of burnt, skeletal remains of F-150s and Honda Civics, still-smoldering tires, and a sea of black as far as the eye can see.

“It’s all gone,” Barclay said. “I don’t know what I’ll do.”

The biggest blow for Barclay was losing his ‘masher,’ a giant piece of machinery that turned compact cars and pickup trucks into neat little cubes of metal. The machine cost Barclay $68,000 when he bought it used and was a key part of his business. He said he doesn’t know how much it will cost to replace the machine or the solar panels valued at $38,000, lost in the blaze.

Scorched Earth

SCORCHED EARTH – A wildfire along County Road 2391 in Alvord torched 450 acres of private property and the LBJ Grasslands Friday. Around 20 fire departments battled the blaze. The fire is now 100 percent contained. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The official cause of the fire has yet to be determined. It remains under investigation by the Wise County Sheriff’s Office.

Barclay said it started after someone began burning trash near the back of his property on Friday. Regardless of the cause, a wildfire ensued, torching 450 acres in Alvord this weekend.

Fighting the fire in the salvage yard presented challenges, Joey Anderson of the U.S. Forest Service said. Logistically, the yard was difficult to access. Cars would heat up and catch fire inconsistently at a slow rate of speed.

“It was like watching a slow motion train wreck with 500 trucks burning,” Anderson said. “It was like boom, one car goes, then a few minutes later another, then another.”

Barclay was out of town when the fire began. He drove back to the yard at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning to find the carnage. Barclay lost hundreds of cars. But the winds blew the inferno away from his log cabin and many of his vehicles on the yard. Barclay said he was thankful that no lives were lost.

The fire was 100 percent contained Sunday, Anderson said, with a few isolated hotspots. The U.S. Forest Service and the Alvord Fire Department will monitor the area for the foreseeable future.

“We’ll be monitoring this probably until we get rain,” Anderson said. “As far as containment goes, I feel good about saying we got 100 percent containment. But, until we get a decent rain, we’re going to be keeping an eye on it.”

Since the fire torched the LBJ National Grasslands, which are federally protected and private land, both Alvord and the U.S. Forest Service will complete the final mop up duty. Around 20 departments assisted in the containment effort, made complicated by extreme drought conditions and the flames ripping through the salvage yard.

Hopewell Baptist Church served as the command center where first responders held their ground, fighting the fire as it reached to within feet of the church.

On Sunday, most of the containment effort had left. James Statham’s breakfast burrito station had packed up and just a few hundred water bottles and Gatorades from community donations remained.

But thanks to the effort of those first responders, Hopewell Baptist Church had service on Sunday, just like any other weekend, despite the smell of burned tires and ash surrounding the building.

Hopewell’s Pastor Charles Nichols said his sermon was one of thanks and praise.

“The fire just went around us,” Nichols said. “If it had just been up to us, I don’t think we could’ve rebuilt because our numbers are so few.”

Nichols was on vacation in New Mexico when he got a call from Alvord’s fire department, but he soon had the church doors opened to be used as a command center.

On Sunday, there was little doubt on his message or his purpose.

“The fire was coming our way and the wind shifted,” Nichols said. “The flames went around us. The way I’m taking that is God is the master of the wind. God’s not through with us yet.”

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