By CLINT FOSTER
PALO PINTO COUNTY – Multiple area fire departments were hard at work this weekend fighting fires across the county, leading County Fire Marshal Buddy Harwell to request that the burn ban be reinstated at a regular meeting of the Palo Pinto County Commissioners’ Court, Monday morning.
Harwell told the Index about three significant weekend fires that raged, all in the area around the city of Palo Pinto.
Harwell said the first was in the wee hours of Friday morning, around 3 a.m., in Pleasant Valley – between Palo Pinto and Mineral Wells. Harwell said Palo Pinto, Lone Camp and Mineral Wells volunteer fire departments all responded to an unoccupied, single-wide mobile home caught ablaze on Papoose Lane, lighting up the night sky.
Harwell said by the time firefighters arrived, the home had been almost totally burnt to the ground, turning the job more into one of cleaning and mopping up than actually putting out flames. He said the fire is still under investigation and he is not sure what caused it, as it appeared people had just moved out, but the power was still on. He added no one witnessed the fire and could say how it began.
Sunday was the busiest for local fires, with a structure fire and a grass fire burning simultaneously between noon and 1 p.m.
The structure fire was at a two-story home on Dunn Drive near Lone Camp. An army of firefighters from Lone Camp, Santo, Gordon, Strawn, Palo Pinto, Lake Palo Pinto and Mineral Wells volunteer fire departments all responded to the blaze that, according to Harwell, had engulfed the entire second floor by the time they got there.
“It was just a bad fire,” Harwell said. “We needed all the water we could get.”
Harwell said, unfortunately, the house burned to the ground, but everyone inside the house was able to escape unharmed. He said not only was this fire advanced when firefighters arrived, but it was also surrounded by multiple trees, making it particularly hard to combat.
This fire, too, is still under investigation and firefighters are unsure of a cause. Harwell said he is still waiting to hear from the insurance company about it.
Meanwhile Sunday, the grass fire ignited on U.S. Highway 180, just west of Palo Pinto.
Harwell – who was at the house fire Sunday afternoon – said as of Monday afternoon, he had yet to receive a full report. Based on what he knew, he said a truck that was either over-heated or already on fire pulled over on the side of the road and sparked a grass fire. The Palo Pinto volunteers arrived and quickly extinguished the flames, but not before they burnt about 10 acres. Still, Harwell said they were lucky it did not get worse, considering the drought conditions.
Bearing continual drought conditions in mind and the recent string of fires, commissioners granted Harwell’s request Monday morning and enacted a new burn ban.
All outdoor burning will be banned for 90 days, with the exception of outdoor cooking on grills and any other burning used exclusively for recreational and noncommercial preparation of food or as a means to keep warm. This order specifically prohibits burning to clear land and the us of Chinese sky lanterns. Violation of this order is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.