Last weekend a barbque pit caused over 5000 acres to burn, almost sixty buildings of those more than 30 homes. Firefighters from all surrounding counties assisted in the effort to save lives and property. The area lost to the flames will be many years before it returns to normal. Real estate signs in the are of the burn stand charred advertising things like , “25 Wooded Acres For Sale”. All that stands is a blackened forest with no green at all. The rains came in this week and assisted firefighters on getting the fire under control. Many of the Montgomery County firefighters returned home, tired, exhausted and only to be met with call after call in Montgomery County.
According to Assistant Fire Marshal Scott Burlin before the rain people had been adhering to the burn ban that has been in place for quite some time. Fire Departments were running up to possibly 4 calls a day
The rain started Wednesday morning close to 5 a.m.. Then about 8am the calls for illegal burns started coming into the dispatch center. At 3p.m. Thursday fire departments responded to almost 100 illegal burn fires.
Thursday afternoon Caney Creek was dispatched to assist River Plantation Fire Department on a large illegal fire on Moorehead Road near Grangerland. Five minutes later Caney Creek was dispatched for the fifth time in 24 hours into Lake Wildwood Subdivision to another address. Five minutes after that a medical call came in and then a call for another illegal fire on Coon Hollow at FM 1485.
Firefighters arrived on that fire and found a large pile of trash piled and burning next to the woods. An additional tanker was requested. The owner of the property was working on a building that was under construction and told the Caney Creek Chief he was aware there was a burn ban.
Scott Burlin with the Montgomery County Fire Marshals Office responded to the scene and wrote the home owner not just for burning illegally during the burn ban but also illegally burning trash. Each carries a fine of $500.
Chief Flannelly of the Caney Creek Fire Department said with all his units running constantly on these types of fires it has forced two trucks to be put in the shop for repairs. Also with all the illegal fires they are responding to he has concerns if a house fire would erupt. Mutual Aid Departments are available but those also are having to deal with the illegal fires.
With the Coon Hollow Fire and the land owner admitting he knew there was a burn ban the Chief said he is planning to bill that landowner for the trucks, the 2800 gallons of water and the manpower to put out this fire. He said there is no reason the taxpayers or this ESD should have to pay for calls of this nature.
This fire was fifty feet from the woods. Those woods are part of the wooded area that burned in 1994 when Grangerland was faced with a massive forest fire that spread into the oilfields.
The Fire Marshals Office will continue to write citations as the Fire Departments respond to the scenes.
Many of those citations will end up in Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Mett’s Court. Judge Metts has a concern for this legal burning also. “Common sense should tell people not to burn during the worst drought in our lifetime, but multiple announcements have also been made through every form of media and signs are posted in English and Spanish,” Judge Metts said. “People receiving citations for burning, especially those who have received them repeatedly should expect to pay for disregarding the law and the potential danger to property and human life.”
“We’ve been more fortunate than many areas, even though it’s just as dry here, and we haven’t lost entire subdivisions or as much wooded property as in many other counties,” he said, “But it could happen here just as easily and it will happen if people don’t stop illegal burning and other behaviors that are sparking these devastating fires.”