Fireworks to blame for 5 fires outside Freer on New Year's

Sue Fleming, The Freer Press

For weeks, volunteer fire departments throughout Duval County have been responding to a rash of brush fires because of persisting dry weather conditions, according to official reports.

"New Year's Eve we put out five around Freer that night," said Freer Fire Chief James Finney. "Most were fireworks related."

Fires ranging from small to as large as an area of 500 acres, which took hours for fire departments to extinguish, have occurred throughout Duval County in recent weeks, reports show.

Freer, along with McMullen County, San Diego and Jim Wells County area fire departments were needed to assist fire fighters with a brush fire near Seven Sisters that covered about a 200 acre area of a ranch last Thursday.

Authorities were mostly concerned of a gas supply line that could have possibly erupted.

"It started out small and spread because it was windy," Finney said. "Sparks from a burn barrel started it."

Sometimes homes or other facilities or even oilrigs standing on property could possibly catch fire, Finney explained.

"Some fires burn out themselves, but when there's structures around somewhere, it's important to make sure fires are completely put out," he said.

Finney cautions that as long as there is no rain and drought conditions continue in South Texas, residents need to be extra careful and use common sense when starting a fire.

According to the Texas Forestry Service, 147 burn bans are currently in effect within 147 counties in the state, excluding Duval County. Bans have to be established by the county judge or commissioner's court.

"No official burn ban report has crossed by desk, but I think a ban would help," Finney said. "There have been some weeks when we got at least one call a day of a brush fire."