Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Burn Baby Burn

I have never understood why people feel they must go out and set off fireworks for the new year. Given that we have had virtually no rain for the last 2-3 months it was very worrisome. Thank God we didn't have strong winds or some of these might have caused some real problems.

Hundreds of brush fires rage in area
Elaine Ayo, Zeke MacCormack and Michelle Mondo Express-News

Sparked by New Year's fireworks, fueled by dry weeds and driven by high winds, about hundreds of brush fires broke out around the San Antonio area Monday and Tuesday.

The San Antonio Fire Department received 328 calls for brush fires Monday and about 450 calls on Tuesday between midnight and 4 p.m., District Fire Chief Randy Jenkins said.

Nearly 50 overnight fires had been reported in Medina County and 10 more in Bandera County since noon Monday. Meanwhile, a blaze on the Atascosa-Bexar County line consumed about 500 acres before being brought under control early Tuesday, officials said.

Bexar, Medina, Bandera and Atascosa officials said no fatalities or serious fire-related injuries had been reported. Also, there were no reports of houses burning down or prolonged evacuations.

“I guess it was about 7:30 p.m. or 8 o'clock (Monday evening) that the flood gates opened up and we didn't stop running until 5 a.m.,” said Chief Mike Winfield of the China Grove Volunteer Fire Department in Southeast Bexar County.

Winfield's department fought a fire that broke out just south of the Alamo Fireworks safe area at 7680 U.S. Texas 87 East for nearly six hours before it was put out about 5 a.m. By then, it had burned from 400 to 450 acres, but didn't destroy any structures, Winfield said.
More coverage

Residents who live in subdivisions that border some of the burning fields did what they could to protect their property, such as dousing their fences with water.

A brush fire that erupted in a field near FM 78 threatened nearby homes in the Bradbury Court subdivision for several hours Tuesday afternoon before it was extinguished.

“I heard banging ... so I looked out this window and I saw all this gray stuff and I thought it was just raining really, really hard,” Chris Coultas, 31, said of the fire that scorched about half of the milelong field and half of his backyard fence. “It got within 6 feet of the house.”

Medina County Sheriff Randy Brown called volunteer firefighters heroes for saving numerous homes there from destruction. Despite the high threat of fire Tuesday afternoon, he said of residents: “They're still out there shooting off fireworks.”

Fireworks were suspected of causing three of nine grass fires Tuesday in Atascosa County, Chief Deputy Sheriff said David Soward said.

Bandera County Fire Marshal Ralph Dresser said disaster was narrowly averted about 2 a.m. Tuesday as a grass fire spread to a recreational vehicle, destroying the rolling home valued at about $80,000.

Volunteer firefighters from Pipe Creek doused the blaze before it ignited the vehicle's fuel supplies of 100 gallons of diesel fuel, 30 gallons of gasoline and 12 gallons of propane, Dresser said.

He'd feared an explosion of the fuel would spread the fire to a nearby residence on Bump Gate Road.

Dresser said the owner of the bus and home had stomped out several earlier small fires caused by his celebrations, but a flying firework that landed near the bus — unnoticed by him — started the costly fire.

Dresser praised local proprietors of guest ranches who, upon weighing the conditions, canceled planned fireworks shows Monday.
“It was a very responsible decision,” he said.

Kendall County Fire Marshal Jeff Fincke said few fires occurred there, thanks to a ban on fireworks county commissioners enacted for the holiday by declaring a local disaster. The ban had the backing of Gov. Rick Perry.

“This is the most fuel that we've had in many, many, many years,” said Brown of Medina County. “The dry grass, it's like someone has poured gasoline over the entire county and it's just waiting for a spark.”