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Dry conditions, heavy winds spark fires throughout Crossroads

By BY JENNIFER PREYSS - JLPREYSS@VICAD.COM
Sept. 4, 2011 at 4:04 a.m.

ABOVE: Smoke billows from a grass fire along Port Lavaca Highway on Sunday afternoon.

Victoria's dry conditions, low humidity and high winds ignited a series of fires that spread throughout Victoria and surrounding counties Sunday.

"It was a large amount of fires for the day," Victoria Fire Department Battalion Chief Tracy Fox said. "The drought conditions are really what exasperated the fires today."

Firefighters responded to seven emergency fire calls in Victoria throughout the day: one house fire, five grass fires and a boat fire at Stratford Place Apartments. Fire departments around the Crossroads also responded to other grass fires.

A home in the 1900 block of Guadalupe Road was destroyed in a fire, first reported about 12:30 p.m.

Down the road about five miles, fire officials responded to a grass fire about 1 p.m., which sparked near U.S. 87 and Crouch and Menke roads. Fire Marshal Ron Pray said about 100-120 acres caught fire; the cause of the fire is unknown. The fire also damaged a railroad trestle, he said.

A second grass fire ignited on U.S. 87 and Sunray Road about 1:30 p.m., burning about 50 acres of brush. Strong winds downed an electrical wire, which caused the brush to catch fire, Pray said.

The two grass fires forced law enforcement officials to shut down U.S. 87 in both directions for about two hours.

On U.S. 77 and Farm-to-Market 445 and McFaddin Road, a third grass fire started about 2:30 p.m., burning about an acre of land. Fox said the cause is unknown.

A fourth grass fire ignited in the 1000 block of South Main Street about 4:30 p.m., burning about a half acre near a water pumping station. Fox said the cause is unknown.

A house located at 3465 Farm-to-Market Road 446 in Victoria, and about 10 acres of brush caught fire at 5:30 p.m. A resident of the home burning trash in the back yard was unable to contain the flames in the heavy winds. The fire spread to the rear of the home, burning one room and the attic.

A boat caught fire at Stratford Place Apartments, 3207 E. Airline Road. The fire was contained quickly, Pray said. The cause is still under investigation.

Outside the county, two fires occurred in Jackson County on Farm-to-Market Road 530 North and County Road 277. Sheriff Andy Louderback said an old cotton gin and seven bales of hay burned. A second small pasture fire was extinguished at Farm-to-Market 234 South about one mile south of U.S. 59. Causes of both fires are unknown.

In Goliad, Fire Chief Alonzo Morales, Jr. said 50 to 75 acres of pasture and brush on Abramite Road and Fannin Road caught fire about 12:15 p.m. An insulator on a power line cracked and sparked the ground on fire, he said.

Cuero Fire Chief Butch Tolbert said about eight acres of brush and grass caught fire about 1:30 p.m. near Verhelle Road and U.S. 87 South.

Fire officials Pray, Fox and Morales reminded the community to use severe caution and refrain from burning when necessary while conditions are uncertain.

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