Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County is in near-critical fire danger due to extreme heat, dry conditions

Stephens County is in near-critical fire danger due to extreme heat, dry conditions
August 16
18:09 2020

Stephens County is at a near-critical point regarding fire danger, Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney said when he addressed the community Friday afternoon during the Stephens County weekly COVID-19 Update.

With the extremely hot and dry conditions in the area, there had been 15 fires in the previous 12 days, he said, explaining why he decided to speak at the weekly update.

“Of those 15 fires, 11 have been caused directly by people making bad choices,” said Chaney, who also serves as the Stephens County Fire Marshal. “Those bad choices could be cutting and welding, illegal burning; we’ve even had a flare gun involved, shredding a field. It’s just not a good time. I don’t know how to critically say it anymore. Your bad decision that you make is putting lives of fire fighters — not just the paid guys, but volunteers — (in danger).”

Other causes of recent fires include a hot chainsaw, grinding, power lines and a downed power pole. Five of the fires burned at least 10 acres each, and four burned at least five acres each.

Chaney encouraged everyone to put off doing those kinds of jobs until the grass isn’t so dry and the temperatures aren’t so hot. “If you’ve got to do some work… do it early in the morning when the humidity is up, the temperature’s cooler ” he said. “We have had multiple fire started in the 4 o’clock to 7 o’clock range.”

Anyone doing a job that’s going to be heat-related or spark-related, needs to have water on hand, specifically a hose or a lot of water with a sprayer; a bucket of water is not enough, Chaney said. Additionally, anyone doing outside work that might start a fire needs a separate spotter. The one doing the work does not need to be the spotter, he said.

Another issue related to the fires is the number of people coming out to look at the fires, which often causes problems for the firefighters on the scene or trying to get to the scene.

“If you have no reason to be at a fire, if you have no cause to be there, don’t come,” Chaney said. “Don’t come to the pasture that’s on fire. You clog up our … escape route. Do not park at the gate. Do not pull over on the side of the road and take video or pictures; that will start a fire, that vehicle sitting there idling in high grass.”

The Breckenridge Fire Department has one brush truck that is out of commission at this time. Stephens County has received a grant that will allow the department to get two new brush trucks. Because the trucks have to be manufactured, it will still be a few more weeks before they are ready.

In the meantime, the BFD is calling local volunteer fire departments to every fire. That puts more emergency vehicles on the road, and Chaney again urged local residents not to drive out to see a fire and not to follow the emergency vehicles. “If you see a firetruck, the perfect deal is to pull to the right side of the road,” he said. “Don’t pull into the grass. Pull to the right side and give them the lane.”

The additional work for the volunteer fire departments is creating a double-hit for their finances, since they have had to cancel most fundraising events due to COVID-19 restrictions, Chaney said, urging local citizens to donate to the VFDs.

On the BFD’s Facebook page, Chaney shared the addresses of VFDs located in Stephens County, in case anyone wants to mail a donation:

Hubbard Creek VFD
P.O Box 885
Breckenridge, Texas 76424

Wayland VFD
10276 FM 1852
Breckenridge, Texas 76424

Caddo VFD
P.O Box 52
Caddo, Texas 76429

Additionally, the Eliasville/South Bend Volunteer Fire Department sometimes assists Stephens County. The address for that VFD is: P.O. Box 74,  South Bend, TX, United States 76481. The Eliasville/South Bend VFD will have a fundraising Cornhole Tournament, beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30, at The Prickly Patch, 11200 Highway 67, north of Breckenridge. The entry fee is $50 per team. The event will be hosted by Ragin Cajun Cornhole.

There is some rain in the forecast for the next few days, but the Burn Ban is still in effect in Stephens County.

 

Story by Carla McKeown and Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney addressed the community about current fire dangers on Friday. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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