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Fire destroys Yoakum saddle tree business (video)

By Sonny Long
Oct. 7, 2013 at 5:07 a.m.

An early morning fire at Precision Saddle Tree on Hickey Street in Yoakum destroyed the building, causing the walls to collapse around a load of ponderosa pine, which was used to carve out the various forms used as the skeletons of leather saddles.

Past FIRE

Only blocks from Monday's fire at Precision Saddle Tree, a fire destroyed the main manufacturing plant of Tex Tan Western Leather in February 2006. About 125 workers were affected by that fire.

YOAKUM - Kenneth Broll stood on the lawn of his Migl Street home at 4:30 a.m. Monday and watched a neighboring business go up in flames.

"It got pretty hot," said Knoll, 39, who has lived in the wood-framed house for a little more than a year.

"I was asleep but woke up pretty quickly. I thought we were going to get evacuated. I never was scared or anything," he said. "The whole crew was out there fighting it."

No evacuations were necessary as Yoakum Fire Department firefighters battled the blaze at Precision Saddle Tree, at 211 Hickey St., from about 4:30 to 10:30 a.m.

"There was one worker inside the building at the time," said Yoakum fire Chief Mark Herchek. "He said the Fire started in a back room. He opened the door, saw the fire, slammed the door shut and called the fire department."

No one was injured in the fire.

"The whole back half of the building was fully involved when we got on scene," Herchek said.

"It was a hard structure to try to put out. It went from one end to the other - no matter how much water we dumped on it."

The chief said the blaze was doused with about 4,000 gallons of water a minute for about two hours.

"The back part was all wooden and full of pallets of wood," said Herchek. "The fuel load was tremendous."

The back room is also a heated room, where the moisture is drawn from the wood before it's used in saddle tree production, he said.

Herchek estimates the building is about 6,000 square feet. It was built in 1910 and has served as a variety of businesses.

After the fire was extinguished, the fire department used a track loader to push down what remained of a 25-foot brick arch that was adjacent to the road.

"We didn't want it to fall the rest of the way onto the road," Herchek said.

About 20 firefighters responded to the fire, and the Cuero Fire Department assisted with a standby tanker, he said.

Precision Saddle Tree is owned by Circle Y Saddles, Herchek said, and the official cause of the fire is under investigation.

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