Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

May 30, 2013

Harwell reports on recent emergencies


Mineral Wells Index

— By CHRIS AGEE



As part of his regular monthly report, Emergency Management Coordinator Buddy Harwell discussed details surrounding several recent events with Palo Pinto County Commissioners Tuesday.

"May was pretty decent," he said, explaining a fire at Possum Kingdom Lake earlier in the month set the stage for other emergencies to follow.

"I was supposed to be in class that week," he said. The blaze that at one time threatened more than 150 structures forced him to cancel those plans.

Dubbed the Frontier Unit Fire based on its origin near Frontier Unit and Riley roads, residents near the fire were evacuated as firefighters from at least 13 state and local agencies responded.

Harwell described the fire, saying it "blew across Frontier Unit Road and up the hill," prompting a quick response to control it.

Final analysis showed about 40 acres were consumed by the blaze and there were no reports of injuries. All residents were allowed to return home and power had been restored to the area by May 16, two days after the fire was first reported.

"We know where it started," Harwell said, explaining the terrain made it difficult to determine a cause.

"It did not look incendiary or intentional," he said, though investigators determined it was "not electrical, not lightning."

He said authorities had not identified any witnesses or suspects as of Tuesday.

The fire was just a prelude to the disastrous storms that pummeled the area with large hail and tornadoes the same week.

He said he received just one report of a destroyed home in the county, though less severe damage was reported across Mineral Wells and beyond. The large hail decimated numerous roofs, causing a "hail event" which drew roofing companies from near and far.

Finally, he said the month ended with a water blockage in Strawn that necessitated its residents boil any water before drinking or cooking with it.

Harwell said he noticed a drop in calls following the implementation of a weeklong burn ban last week.

"I fared really well with the burn ban on," he said. Commissioners voted Tuesday to continue the burn ban for 90 days.



Departmental reports

Sheriff Ira Mercer presented April's Palo Pinto County Sheriff's Office report, explaining Memorial Day weekend was relatively quiet with "some usual stuff" having been reported.

PPSO authorities received 72 civil papers, issuing 115 tickets and 55 warnings, he said.

Officers responded to 635 calls during the month, resulting in 80 arrests. Deputies travelled 52,947 miles.

Sales tax revenue was down more than 9 percent in April, according to County Auditor Steve Watson, continuing an up-and-down trend.

He said February's report showed an uptick in sales tax while January's results were down.

Treasurer Tanya Fallin said the county's ending cash balance in April was $12,499,536,59. Investments for the same period totaled $9,830,683,76.

The public works department issued 7 permits, according to Director David McDonald. Six were for existing structures and one was a new construction, he said. Of the $2,320 collected, $70 went to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality while the remainder was added to the county's general fund.