Two grass fires erupted Friday afternoon in Erath County requiring several fire departments to respond and work into the night to extinguish the flames.
Despite county commissioners reinstating a county wide restriction on outdoor burning Thursday morning, dispatchers with the Erath County Sheriff’s Department have fielded several calls, said Kenneth Howell, fire chief of the Erath County Volunteer Fire Department.
“The county had numerous calls regarding people violating the burn ban since it was reinstated on Thursday,” said Howell. “Fortunately, those who called were able to put them out with their own extinguishers.”
Friday morning, Erath County firefighters responded to a small grass fire but were called out again at 5:39 p.m. to the Happy Valley subdivision, located on CR 195.
Lt. Mickey Nivens reported that a homeowner in the area called in the grass fire which burned approximately three acres. “There were some mobile homes in the area but they weren’t in any immediate danger.”
Firefighters responded with four brush trucks and a tanker, said Howell, and were able to put out the flames within 40 minutes. Also providing assistance were personnel with the Dublin Fire Department. The fire chief said it’s still unknown what caused the fire, but conditions were ripe with gusty winds and low humidity.
While putting out the small fire at Happy Valley, firefighters were alerted to a second blaze, this time on a ranch located off of CR 370 in the Bunyan area.
“We were on a fire run assisting Erath County when we saw the smoke coming down,” said Dublin Fire Chief James Fitts. “The call came in and we started hustling that way. In the meantime, Lingleville (VFD) got a call on it and we all converged.”
The blaze, erupting from the smoldering remains of a controlled burn at a game preserve conducted on Tuesday, had taken hold again Friday evening and began to spread into the Shillingberg Ranch, said Fitts. “Because of the wind, it evidently started it back up. It spread from the north side of the preserve into the Shillingberg property.”
“We had three trucks and a tanker, Erath County had two or three trucks plus their tanker, and Lingleville sent three trucks and a tanker,” said Fitts. “Selden and Huckabay also responded with one unit each.”
Firefighters also called on the Texas Forest Service to provide assistance, which supplied two bulldozers and three ground personnel from their local staging area in Stephenville, said Fitts. “We had the wind to deal with and a good bit of rough terrain with heavy brush. That’s the reason we called in the Forest Service.”
Approximately 125 acres burned near Bunyan with firefighters remaining on the scene until 11:30 p.m. Friday. No structures were threatened or lost in the fire.
“Lingleville had been back out there Saturday morning to check it out. With the high winds we had some real concerns with that fire starting back up,” said Howell.
With dry conditions still prevalent in the area, Fitts said it’s going to take several more heavy rains to solve the problem.
“One of the things we can continue to do is caution the public to call before they burn,” said Fitts. “If there’s any question about whether or not we’re in a burn ban citizens can call the Erath County VFD or the sheriff’s office. Dispatch is kept apprised of the burn bans. The message that needs to go out to the public is call before you light a fire.”
Fitts says in order to prevent additional grass fires, it will require a cooperative effort of the county’s citizens. “I can’t speak highly enough of the comradere and the mutual aid that we have in place. We had zone defense out at the Bunyan fire. We’re not territorial of our response areas, instead we’re most concerned with saving lives and property.”