Mineral Wells Index
By TODD GLASSCOCK
Firefighters from eight area departments responded to a blaze just before midnight Tuesday that destroyed an apartment complex construction site in the 1500 bock of Martin Luther King Blvd. in Mineral Wells.
The Royal Gardens site, meant for income-based senior living, was a total loss, said Mineral Wells Fire Chief Mike Pool.
Pool said reports of the fire came in around 11:52 p.m. Tuesday and when the first trucks from Mineral Wells arrived the structure was fully involved. The fire was out by 4 a.m. Wednesday.
The fire was massive, he said. As he headed to the call from his home outside of Weatherford, he could see the flames.
He said eight departments and about 50 firefighters from Mineral Wells and Weatherford Fire Departments and volunteer fire departments from Mineral Wells, Millsap, Cool-Garner, Brazos, Santo and Springcreek responded to the blaze, as well as to brush fires that erupted near the adjacent power plant from blowing embers and as far as Welcome Mountain, about 3 miles from the construction site. Also involved were both Parker and Palo Pinto County fire marshals.
No injuries were reported, Pool said.
Pool said the fire devastated the 75-unit complex and clubhouse that was under construction, as well as construction trailers and large amounts of equipment and heavy machinery such as loaders. Garages on the south and west sides of the complex received minor damage.
“Winds out of the south kept it off the garages,” Pool said. “The wind made it spread.”
Intense heat and flame also burned two power poles and damaged phone lines in the area, he said. The heat was intense enough that it sucked moisture from the concrete pavement around the complex, causing it to pop and crack. Several areas in the pavement around the complex were blackened and pocked with holes where the concrete had exploded.
The fire's cause has yet to be determined, although there is the possibility lightning struck the site, he said. “We're not ruling anything out at this time.”
With thunderstorms in and around Palo Pinto County Tuesday night, he said lightning might have been a cause. The fire department will consult weather services to check for lightning strikes in the area.
Mineral Wells resident Nid Kisinger, who lives near Travis Elementary School, said she saw lightning in the area when the fire started. She woke up to see the flames leaping into the night sky and alerted neighbors. “I was so scared. I didn't know where the wind would blow the fire.”
Intense heat also melted vinyl siding on the west side exterior walls of the Meals on Wheels building on 14th Street across from the construction site, said Quinn Robinson, a board director for the organization, who was at the building assessing damage. The building was otherwise undamaged, although phone service was out that morning because of damage to phone lines caused by the fire.
Meal deliveries were on schedule, he said.
Several Mineral Wells residents were without phone service Wednesday morning because of damage to lines caused by the fire, said Phillip Self, outside foreman for AT&T in Mineral Wells. He wasn't sure when phone service would be restored in the area because electrical power also needed to be restored. AT&T crews were at the site working to get lines restored.
Crews from Oncor were working at the site to repair burned poles and restore power, said Robert Turk, a building official for the City of Mineral Wells. He said he wasn't certain how much of the power grid had been affected.
He said the construction site itself didn't have any permanent electrical power, and he was due to inspect the completed clubhouse for electrical service Wednesday morning.
“This was a big shock when I heard this,” said property co-owner Noor Jooma with Fern Developers of Dallas. “It was 75 to 78 percent complete. Most of it was pre-leased.”
He said he wasn't certain at this moment what his company will do regarding the complex.
He said the seniors who had pre-leased apartments were very happy to have a place made just for them. “This is very tragic for those seniors and very tragic for the people of Mineral Wells.”