By LIBBY CLUETT
A suspicious grass fire ignited on the south side of Mineral Wells Junior High School property shortly before noon Thursday and burned quickly toward S.E. 15th Street and neighboring houses.
The fire appears to have originated from a small red storage building which has a broken door. The building has no electricity or wires running to it, according to Mineral Wells ISD grounds supervisor Thomas Gilbert who came when he heard of the fire.
Gilbert said he talked to a man who was trying to put out the fire and possibly the individual who called it in. He said the man told him that earlier, before he noticed the fire, he saw a boy or young man walking across the field and looking back several times to the area where the fire started.
The fire burned just a couple of acres before being controlled by a Mineral Wells Fire Department crew. While an estimated 10- to 12-mph wind out of the north kept the fire well away from school buildings, within 10 minutes of the 911 call flames reached S.E. 15th Street, which is lined with houses and a gas pipeline on the south side of the road.
Gilbert showed MWISD School Resource Officer Sherry Ford a small red building, once used for soccer storage, where he said there were matches and that looked like kids had been messing around.
He added that the junior high had problems with another building, closer to the school, but secured it. However, Gilbert noted that the little red storage building, right where the fire started, does not belong to the district.
Ford confirmed the fire is suspicious and said the cause of the fire is under investigation as to whether it is arson or not. She said she spent Thursday talking to neighbors to see what they may have witnessed.
•Palo Pinto County remains under a burn ban, prohibiting trash fires and burning brush piles because of the county's drought conditions.
Although the ground has received some moisture recently, County Fire Marshall
Buddy Harwell said the conditions haven't changed much and the fuel is still dead and dormant and dry.
He said the county did well over the holidays without any grass or wildland fires. However, he added there were some house and structure fires and other situations unrelated to burning.