The Commerce Journal

August 7, 2013

Multiple fires keep the Commerce Fire Department busy throughout week

By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — When you combine the high temperature with the low humidity for the past week, you have a recipe for the frequent fires the Commerce Fire Department has fought recently.

From Aug. 3 through 6, the CFD sirens wailed as the trucks pulled out of their location on 1600 Pecan Street to fight large fires around the city.

“Currently there is no burn ban in the county, but I feel one is imminent,” Jack Berni, Commerce Fire Chief said, adding that even if there isn’t a burn ban issued in the county, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality has jurisdiction to activate one. “Just because there is not a burn ban doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to burn.”

Berni listed items that never can be burned in the county, including shingles, furniture and tires, because of the harmful carcinogenic toxins released when burned.

“You can only burn brush and unpainted lumber. You also cannot burn before sunrise or after sunset and the wind cannot be above 25 mph,” he said. “And you can’t have smoke blowing across the road.”

Berni added that even “if you do everything to the letter of the law, and it gets out of hand, you’re still liable to damages done to other people’s property.”

Berni said most of the fires the department have had to fight this week were because of the low humidity coupled with the high heat.

“On Saturday we had eight separate grass fires along Farm Road 3218,” he said. “It appeared to be a trailer dragging the road and the sparks caused the fires. We don’t think it was intentional, but he didn’t stop to tell us.”

On Sunday, some hay bailing equipment caused a spark, which caused a fire between Commerce and Wolfe City that took the Commerce, Wolfe City and Greenville Fire Department’s, along with the Texas Forestry Service, to put out.

Monday’s large fire was at the Texas A&M Univeristy-Commerce Agricultural Farm.

According to Berni, the fire was caused by a vehicle that caught the grass and more than 30 bails of hay on fire.

A fire that started out as a controlled burn but soon became uncontrolled was the fire the CFD fought on Tuesday.

Berni said that it is best not to burn in these conditions, even with no burn ban.

“The problem with brush piles and controlled burns is they get out of hand very fast,” he said.

Berni said for people to wait until the next rain before attempting to burn their brush or lumber.