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Grass fire ignites fireworks warehouse
Fireworks explode above the scene Jan. 26 as firefighters from several Wilson County volunteer fire departments battle a blaze at American Chinese Fireworks on U.S. 181 Business north of Floresville. / JON DONLEY MEDIA/Contributor
Wilson County NewsJanuary 30, 2013 2,779 views 1 comment
FLORESVILLE -- A barbecue grill located close to the ground is being blamed for a massive grass fire north of here Jan. 26 that claimed a warehouse and storage trailers at the American Chinese Fireworks store on U.S. 181.
Wilson County Health and Public Safety Office Coordinator Edwin Baker, who also serves as the county’s fire marshal, told the Wilson County Commissioners Court Jan. 28 that the blaze started outside a home on U.S. 181 Business, which runs behind the fireworks warehouse’s property. Firefighters who arrived at the scene at approximately 1:20 p.m. attempted to head off the flames on the side of U.S. 181 Business, but shifting winds fanned the flames across the roadway. A second wind shift propelled the flames toward the rear of the warehouse.
Baker said once the flames made contact with the metal on the exterior wall, the heat caused some stored fireworks to detonate, and the building was engulfed a short time later. Firefighters from both stations of the Floresville Volunteer Fire Department, assisted by their counterparts from Poth, Sutherland Springs, Eagle Creek, La Vernia, and Stockdale, remained on the scene well past nightfall. They were assisted by personnel from Wilson County Precincts 1 and 2, the Floresville Police Department, and the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office. They also returned on Jan. 27, and Baker said that as of 12:30 p.m. Jan. 28, parts of the collapsed building still were smoldering.
“There’s still unexploded ordnance inside,” Baker said.
In addition to the massive firefighting challenge that beleaguered crews throughout the weekend, environmental challenges may lie ahead. Baker said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has notified owners of American Chinese Fireworks that they have 24 hours to devise and submit a remediation plan, which could include soil sampling and other environmental testing. He said the owners also have been told to ensure that there is no hazardous materials runoff from further firefighting activities.
Baker said preliminary estimates are that the blaze caused approximately $5 million damage, of which roughly $4 million was stock. The retail store adjacent to the warehouse, however, still is intact.
It was unknown as of press time Jan. 28 if any charges would be filed in the wake of the fire.
Dry, windy conditions like those that contributed to the size of the Jan. 26 fire also have contributed to the county’s burn ban declaration. The 90-day ban, enacted by the Wilson County Commissioners Court Dec. 27, forbids all agricultural burning without prior approval from the Wilson County Health and Public Safety Office. The burning of household trash -- which only is allowed in unincorporated areas -- is limited to screened burn barrels and only permitted to occur during daylight hours.
Anyone caught violating the ban is subject to a $500 fine, and could be found civilly liable for property damage.
For more information about the burn ban, call the Wilson County Health and Public Safety Office at 830-393-8503.
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