LAWNMOWER sparks Dallas inferno that rips through 26 homes amid soaring temperatures
BALCH SPRINGS, DALLAS: A grass fire apparently ignited by a mower swept about 300 yards across a dry open field in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs on Monday, July 24. The fire burnt around 26 homes and destroyed nine and left dozens of people homeless. According to Balch Springs Fire Marshal Sean Davis, the fire spread as laborers mowed a nearby field at the northwest corner of Interstate 20 and South Belt Line Road, though officials are still investigating who is to blame. The fire spread quickly north from the shoulder of Interstate 20 to the subdivision at about 4 pm.
A row of houses on Broadview Drive, near Mackey Elementary School, caught on fire. The raging wildfire had been placed out by Monday evening, and the house fires had been extinguished and people were evacuated. There were no injuries, and officials said they were looking into who was to blame. Some residents attempted to put out the fire with garden hoses. Others had only a few minutes to flee their homes, leaving everything behind, The Dallas Morning News reported.
“Lost everything. Just everything” said homeowner Miguel Quinonez, who had lived in the house with his wife for almost 14 years. He said he’d just bought a new truck that burned in the garage. An aerial video captured by a drone showed the raging fire with flames going up in the air meanwhile firefighters and homeowners trying to prevent their homes from fire spreading. Team leaders said they had added 126 firefighters and extra fire engines and bulldozers to the 190 already clearing fire lines over the weekend 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth, expanding the containment from 10 per cent to 20 per cent.
The fire in Balch Springs, a suburb of about 25,000 people just southeast of Dallas, took place as firefighters across North Texas battled fires that destroyed dozens of homes, due to drought and unseasonably high temperatures. According to the fire marshal, the Balch Springs field has a few fires each year that are quickly extinguished. “It’s happening in a lot of places, just people out cutting hay or grass or something, and they’re clipping something they didn’t see, and it’s starting a fire and then traveling like crazy,” Balch Springs Fire Marshal, Davis said.
Officials don't have a record of the exact number of people who were displaced. Wanda Blanchette-Ware a resident of Balch Springs said she barely had time to wake up her son Jacoby Ogunniyi and two dogs, Bella and Lola, to get out of their Balch Springs house as the fire approached. Her son works during the day and had fallen asleep as the cops knocked on the door. She claimed she went to his window and banged on it, The Dallas Morning News reported. "There's a fire, Honey, please get up!" She jolted him awake. Blanchette-Ware stated that she observed her neighbors watering their lawns, but the fire was too strong. "Then the wind came and blew the fire down the street," she explained.
As the fire spread, the fire marshal ordered the evacuation of all homes and structures on Broadview Drive and Bell Manor Court, which back up to the grass fire's starting point. According to Balch Springs City Manager Susan Cluse, the city is collaborating with the Red Cross to set up an overnight shelter at a city recreation center, and some local hotels will house residents and their pets for an extended period of time. The Red Cross will assist displaced residents in obtaining basic necessities, locating temporary housing, and initiating insurance documentation. Residents whose homes have not been damaged can remain in them.
“Right now, we don’t know where we’re going to spend the night tonight,” said Roberto Pinero, whose home of 13 years, that he had recently remodeled, was destroyed. He said his son called him about the fire, and “when I went and opened the back door the fire hit my face, and I take my family out", the news outlet reported.
Residents said there have been several recent fires in the area. “That area has been undeveloped for so long, it’s just like kindling out there,” said Joe Perez, a homeowner who lives about four houses away from the fire. According to data from the Dallas Central Appraisal District, the homes were built around 2005 and appraised in the mid-$200,000s.