Controlled burn gets out of hand, threatens nearby businesses, burns about 400 acres

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Jan. 28, 2011 at 3:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 27, 2011 at 7:28 p.m.

Emergency personnel fight a grass fire along U.S. Highway 77 north of  Victoria on Friday.

Emergency personnel fight a grass fire along U.S. Highway 77 north of Victoria on Friday.

Christina Cook stood anxiously waiting for the smoke to clear along the shoulder of U.S. Highway 77 North on Friday afternoon.

The smoke from a 400-acre grass fire was burning close to the future new home to her wedding planning business.

The fire was a controlled burn that had gone awry about noon, close to LuRaq's Restaurant-Beer Garden, in the 13,000 block of U.S. Highway 77 North, said Ron Pray, Victoria County fire marshal.

Fortunately for Cook, the structure of her business, The Gathering Company, was not affected. Only some fencing and supplies were damaged.

"I was scared, to be honest," said Cook, hours after the blaze had been contained. "The whole land was burnt. It's just amazing how the building wasn't touched."

The building is about halfway completed. Her father was working on the roof when he called her to let her know about the fire, she said.

Dirt from the construction may have prevented the fire from reaching her building, she said.

A landowner was burning some dead grass when his tractor got stuck in mud and he was no longer able to contain the burn, Pray said.

The Victoria Fire Department, and Nursery and Fordtran volunteer fire departments had the blaze under control in several hours. The Victoria County Sheriff's office also helped.

"Controlled burns can get out of control," Pray said. "Sometimes things do happen that people can't control. Like for example, this gentleman."

The fire department's biggest problem battling the blaze was the soft, wet land, Pray said.

Several tanker trucks were getting stuck driving through the mush field, resulting in Pray advising the firefighters to stay back and wait for the fire to come to them, he said.

"We didn't want to jeopardize anyone's safety," Pray said.

Units were placed strategically around the fire.

The fire grew rapidly because of dead grass, light wind and the recent freezes the area has seen, Pray added.

No homes were in immediate danger.

LuRaq's owner Joey Ornelas said he was not worried about the fire.

The fire had reached the business' back fence line but did not burn any of the two acres his building sits on, he said.

"I wasn't worried at all," he said. "We keep our grass cut real short. Some of our customers were kind of worried."

The fire departments had arrived fast and responded quickly, which added to his relaxed composure.

"It brought us a little more business," he said. "People came out here to see what it was."

The firefighters stopped by the restaurant after the fire was out.

"The county guys (fire firefighters) just left the restaurant," Ornelas said around 4 p.m.



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