‘All we could do was pray’
by Scott Reese Willey
Jan 27, 2010 | 1592 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rolando Garcia tells a friend about a wind-swept grass fire that almost consumed his home near Skidmore on Saturday. He used a water hose to keep the flames at bay and firefighters from Skidmore, Papalote, Tynan and Beeville battled the blaze.
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Rolando Garcia watched in horror Saturday as a fast-moving grass fire swept toward his mobile home on County Road 620 just south of Skidmore.

“We had a strong north wind and that fire, man, it was moving fast,” he recalled. “All we could do was pray.”

Firefighters kept the towering flames from reaching Garcia’s home or the neighbor’s across the street.

“It burned right up to the property line,” he said. “The wind was so strong that by the time the fire was reported it was already halfway here.”

He said he used a water hose to beat back the flames.

“It got the part right by my trailer and I thought it was actually going to take my home,” he said.

Fortunately, no one was injured by the fire.

Eleven firemen and five trucks from the Beeville Volunteer Fire Department rushed to a rural residential area south of Skidmore Sunday to help put out a rapidly spreading grass fire.

Fire Chief Donald C. Morris said high winds and tall grass had firemen worried. Units from Skidmore, Tynan and Papalote responded to the call at about 12:35 p.m. and stayed at the scene until almost 4 p.m.

Morris said about 50 acres of grass and brush burned east of U.S. Highway 181 and 10-15 small outbuildings were seriously damaged or destroyed.

Several houses in the area also were slightly damaged, Morris said.

The fire crept within feet of Garcia’s trailer home and the neighbor’s home across the street. Towering palm trees looked like telephone poles. Carpet grass was blackened up to the front porch. A plastic basketball backboard melted from the heat.

Another neighbor’s travel trailer was consumed by the flames.

“We had a lot of high grass, tall weeds in this area and that’s why the fire took off as fast as it did,” Garcia reckoned.

“The wind was a major factor in fighting this fire and getting it contained,” Rick Bohac, the assistant fire chief with the Skidmore Volunteer Fire Department, told a television news team immediately after the fire. “The wind was a big problem.”

Fire investigators initially reported that a piece of discarded glass caused the fire by refracting sunlight onto the dry grass.

But Garcia said Tuesday he had heard that the fire started because a neighbor was burning trash, which got out of control.

“I’m told that someone threw an aerosol can into the fire and it exploded and a piece of it landed in the tall grass nearby,” Garcia said. “At least, that’s what I heard.”

Beeville firemen took the department’s Engine 4 to the scene along with one tanker truck and three brush trucks.

Morris said the smaller lots, each about five acres, and the number of fences made it difficult for firemen to get their trucks to parts of the blaze.

Soft ground from recent rains also caused firemen some worry. Although the ground is wet in places, the grass is quite dry because of recent freezes, making conditions dangerous for spreading grass fires.

It was the wind, however, that concerned firemen the most.

The fire swept across a vacant field of tall weeds and mesquite trees until it reached County Road 620. The fire jumped CR 620 and burned several more acres before firefighters were able to stop it.

“If it had jumped the (highway), I don’t think we would have ever stopped it,” the chief said.

Bee-Picayune staff writer Gary Kent contributed to this story.
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