By CLINT FOSTER
Multiple fires broke out in around Palo Pinto County and in Mineral Wells as drought conditions continue to worsen with no relief in sight.
Palo Pinto County Fire Marshall knew of two fires within the county over the weekend. The first was a small fire off of Farm-to-Market Road 129 near Brazos on Friday afternoon. Brazos and Santo Volunteer Fire Departments responded and controlled the flames relatively quickly.
Harwell said they are unsure of the cause because there was no one around, but it was likely “a pile of junk or trash” that someone set fire and left unattended.
The other three weekend fires all happened on Saturday, two in Mineral Wells and one outside of town on the Palo Pinto-Parker County line.
The first of these was northeast of Mineral Wells, on the county line, occurring around 3:30 p.m. at 1400 Hayes Road. Harwell said three acres burned in a grass fire of unknown origin. Mineral Wells VFD responded to the blaze that consumed a shed and came close to a mobile home. The fire was put out without any injuries or much difficulty.
Mineral Wells VFD Chief Joel Thompson could not be reached for further information.
The next fire was sparked – quite literally – just a little over an hour later.
Mineral Wells resident Joe Folly said he was leaving his farm, situated behind Miller Stadium, to go to Fort Worth celebrating the eve of the beginning of the new NFL season. The afternoon sky was totally clear, he said, but as he was pulling out of the gravel driveway, he heard a loud clap of thunder that shook his van and he saw smoke billow up ahead of him on the street.
According to the Mineral Wells Fire Department, lightning struck, causing a power surge and an arching power line that sparked a grass fire in the bar ditch of the road in front of Folly’s house. When MWFD arrived on the scene, they found Folly and others already attempting the squelch the flames. The combined efforts put out the fire and the responding firefighter wet the area down.
Finally, the last of the blazes was another trash fire around 10 p.m. at 601 SE 13th Ave. MWFD responded to a fire investigation and found the flames were already extinguished by a resident. The trash fire was up against the house and burned small areas of the home’s underpinning.
MWFD determined the fire was started by a spark or hot ash from the resident’s grill that was left burning. Since the fire was out and taken care of, the MWFD left the scene after concluding their investigation.
In response to the fires and drought conditions, the Palo Pinto County Commissioners Court extended the county-wide burn ban at Harwell’s behest in their regularly scheduled meeting Monday morning. Over the past week the drought index has increased from 603 to 645, almost a 50-point jump, Harwell said. He added if there is still no rain by the next Commissioners Court meeting, he plans to suggest more restrictions for the burn ban to make it stricter going forward.
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