|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - June 2009
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LVFD answers 17 fire calls, jaws rescues in four days
Polk County Enterprise - June 2009
LIVINGSTON – Polk County has been dry for some time now and there is growing concern a wildfire might get out of control and cause serious damage. Debris from Hurricane Ike still litters the ground in many places and may serve as kindling for a small fire as it grows into a larger one. A major wildfire is among the top concerns for Polk County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Shine. He is wary of all the dead wood on the ground and is encouraging homeowners to take steps now to clean up the yard as much as possible. “This could exacerbate a forest fire because there is so much material on the ground,” Shine said. “The west side of the county is the driest and people there should be prepared.
Clean up the debris now, not when the flames are licking at the fence.” A burn ban is on the agenda for Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting and barring a good rainstorm between now and then it is very likely to be approved. In the meantime, Shine wants people to be aware of the conditions and not leave a fire unattended. “The biggest problem is personal neglect,” Shine said. “Don’t just build a fire and walk away from it. Darkness does not put out a fire. Check the weather before you burn. If the wind is high, don’t burn.” Fires don’t just spread along the ground they can also go from treetop to treetop. Shine is encouraging people to clear the trees away from your home to prevent a fire from jumping to a rooftop. Texas is the eighth fastest-growing state in the nation according to the Texas Forest Service website.
The gap in the Wildland-Urban interface, where subdivisions and businesses touch the edges of a forest, is becoming smaller and smaller as the population of Texas grows. Forest service officials have teamed up with local volunteer fire departments to train and prepare firemen for the changing landscape and for the increasing likelihood of these interface fires occurring. “In an average fire year, 106,400 wildfires burn over 4 million acres of land,” according to the About. Com website. Texas leads the nation in the number of wildland fires by a huge margin. Already in 2009 more than 9,000 wildland fires have been logged and more than half a million acres burned, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
The next highest number was in Mississippi where about 3,600 fires have been reported and just over 50,000 acres has burned. With all of the debris left in Ike’s wake, East Texas is a tinder box waiting for a spark. Those sparks did ignite 10 times between Monday and Friday in the area covered by Livingston Volunteer Fire Department. They also answered seven calls for assistance with vehicle crashes during that five-day period, LVFD reports show. On Monday, LVFD responded with eight men and three trucks to a woods fire on Marston Road off of U.S. 59 North. One acre of land on a SHECO right-of-way was burned. Tuesday they were called to assist with a backhoe accident that killed a city worker until at 1:18 p.m. they were called out to U.S. 190 at Spring Creek to extricate victims of a car crash and set up a landing zone for medical helicopters. That call required 11 firefighters and two trucks. Less than an hour and a half later LVFD firefighters were using the Jaws of Life to remove victims from another crash on U.S. 59, requiring 13 firefighters and two trucks.
LVFD received another call at 8:12 p.m. to check out a propane leak in the 400 block of Baxter Road. Fire crews were back out at 7:20 a.m. Wednesday for a house fire at 318 Butternut in Oak Terrace. The resident was out of town at the time of the fire, LVFD reports show. Twelve firemen and two trucks responded from LVFD, Scenic Loop VFD sent one truck and four firefighters. At 11 a.m. Wednesday, a motor home pulling a pickup was involved in a crash at Houston and Abbey Streets and required LVFD assistance. Four firefighters and one truck responded. Firefighters were called again at 1:05 p.m. when a Lincoln and a Ford Expedition collided on S.H. 146 South at Jack Nettles Road. From there they went to a woods fire on Travis Street in Wiggins Village No. 1 At 3:22 p.m. LVFD was called to assist Segno VFD for a fire at a vacant house.
Ten firefighters and two trucks responded but were unable to reach the house due to the large number of trees that remained around the house from Hurricane Ike. Dozer crews from the Texas Forest Service plowed around the unoccupied house and the fire was put out. Another vehicle crash occurred at 4:20 p.m. Wednesday on SH 146 South at the entrance to the Escapees RV Park requiring 11 firefighters and one truck. Thursday’s flurry of fire calls began with an alarm call at 7:30 a.m. that was a false alarm. About 45 minutes later LVFD was called out to assist with a crash involving a log truck and a truck at Loop 166 in Leggett. Later that afternoon a log skidder caught fire on FM 942 between the Upper Leggett Road and the Hortense Community. That fire required seven firefighters and three trucks. At 3:30 p.m. three trucks and five men from LVFD went to Siesta Country to assist Goodrich VFD with a brush fire. On Friday LVFD was called to a house fire in Holiday Lakes at 4 p.m. Ten men and two trucks responded.