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Hot, dry weather conditions challenge fire departments
Already short-handed volunteer fire departments in Wilson and Bexar counties are contending with a perfect storm of triple-digit heat, southerly winds, and little rain amid a recent spate of wildfires.
Near Elmendorf, a resident burning trash Aug. 18 is being blamed for a fire that consumed an abandoned home and caused damage to a second structure, according to Bexar County spokesman Laura Jesse.
Firefighters from Bexar County Emergency Services District No. 2, St. Hedwig, Somerset, Gardendale, and China Grove were called to the area near the intersection of Old Corpus Christi and La Gloria roads at 3:43 p.m., Jesse said. The blaze caused $40,000 to $50,000 in damage, which included a nearby mobile home that was partially damaged.
The fire was only a few miles down Old Corpus Christi Road from a blaze that burned an abandoned home and threated the Brenntag chemical plant near Loop 1604 the night before. Officials said someone detonating fireworks in the area caused that blaze.
Jesse said there currently is no burn ban declared in Bexar County and the commissioners court there was not set to meet before Aug. 26. She urges residents to exercise common sense when it comes to any activities involving open flames, or in which a fire could result. Under state law, those responsible for fires that damage property can be sued in civil court.
“People have got to watch what they’re doing, because it’s getting bad,” said Chief Lorenzo Ortiz of the Floresville Volunteer Fire Department.
Neighboring Wilson County, which has been under a burn ban since Aug. 11, continues to experience fires, with at least three being touched off Aug. 19-21 along S.H. 97 West. In one instance Aug. 19, Wilson County Health and Public Safety Office Coordinator Edwin Baker said he was told that at approximately 4:30 p.m., a driver on S.H. 97 near C.R. 137 allegedly tossed a lit cigarette from a vehicle. This caused a towed trailer behind it to briefly catch fire before being extinguished. However, Baker said, nearby grass caught fire and the flames spread quickly due to thick brush and windy conditions, threatening a nearby exotic wildlife ranch.
Firefighters from the Floresville Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene and were assisted by their counterparts from Three Oaks, Pleasanton, Jourdanton, Leming, and Poth, along with workers from Wilson County precincts 1 and 2. At least 40 acres burned, Ortiz said, but no structures were damaged. There were no reports of injuries to firefighters, or to the animals at the ranch.
Baker -- who serves as both the county’s fire marshal and the chief of the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department -- was called from the scene at approximately 6:30 p.m. to a blaze on C.R. 422 north of Stockdale. The cause of the fire, which started on the roadside, is unknown, but workers from Wilson County Precinct 4 helped firefighters from Stockdale and La Vernia to contain the blaze to 3 to 4 acres.
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