Grass Fire Worst in Years


11-29-05 - Firefighters are calling a grass fire in southeast Stephens County one of the worst in 10 years. It's already destroyed dozens of structures and is now making its way to the Carter County line.

Twelve homes were completely destroyed by yesterday's grass fire, and as it rages on today the Velma fire chief says even more structures are being threatened.

For the past 34 years Carol Roberts and her mom lived in what used to be a four bedroom home right off of Main Street in Velma, but yesterday the huge grass fire crossed its path and left nothing behind.

Carol said, ”We saw the fire from here yesterday. It didn't look dangerous or out of control.”

But firefighters say it was. A spark from an electrical line ignited the flames yesterday afternoon. Fueled by high winds, it quickly spread east.

So far it's destroyed over 20 structures and burned over 9,000 acres of land, and because the wind is still strong today it's still not under control.

Bruce Lynn, Velma Fire Chief, said, "It could hit even more structures that could get hit. We still have structures that are in danger.”

And as the fire moves east, there's a new danger. The flames could meet up with wild fires already burning in northwest Carter County. So far they've burned over 3,000 acres.

Richard Wright, Ratliff City Fire Chief, said, "When you've got something this big there is just no stopping it with what we've got."

The wind not only speeds the fire, it also changes firefighters’ tactics, keeping them from fighting the flames from above. It’s too windy for helicopters.

Velma's only option right now is to use every water truck they can to get the fire under control before it leaves another family homeless.

The Velma fire chief hopes to have the fire under control by tonight and hopes to have it completely out by the end of the week. So far around 18 different departments have helped with Velma's grass fire. Four of those firefighters suffered from smoke inhalation.


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