Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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September 4, 2011

UPDATE: CORSICANA, NAVARRO FIRES

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Firefighters from throughout Navarro County are on the scene of multiple brush and structure fires Sunday afternoon near Corsicana. The largest fire was near the old Adams Hat factory in the industrial park just off Business 45, on Oak Grove at the Roane Road. Eight buildings were damaged in that fire, which leaped from one building to another, carried by high winds that swept through all of North Texas.

“At one point we had a total of seven calls at the same time,” said Corsicana Fire Chief Donald McMullan. “And those were just fires, we also had calls for power lines and ambulances.”

One of the first fires, which was reported around 2 p.m., was just off Cottonwood Circle near West 13th, and that grass fire burned right up to the supports of a series of mobile homes, McMullan said.

“Our guys did a great job of getting it stopped before it got into those homes,” he said.

But by then, two other large fires were reported — one off Oak Grove at the Roane Road, which was behind the old Adams Hat factory, just off Business 45. That one eventually destroyed eight metal buildings, the shops of small business owners.

Another fire, near Waterworks at South Seventh, burned about 40 acres of woods and grass fields on the east side of Corsicana, coming near to several homes in the area. While firefighters were battling the structure fires, homeowners and church members fought the Waterworks fire with buckets and coolers of water, to prevent it from spreading to nearby houses.

McMullan said he didn’t think so many fires at once were a coincidence.

“It’s very suspicious,” he said. “But due to the magnitude of the situation we haven’t been able to put any resources on it today. But it’s very suspicious to have all these fires one right after another and we’ll be investigating whether these were intentionally set fires.”

Most of the Corsicana-area fires were under control by around 5 p.m., thanks to the assistance of volunteers from Blooming Grove, Rice, and Roane. Also helping with heavy equipment were city workers with the Public Works department, and firefighters from the Texas Forestry Service, who brought in four fire trucks and a bull dozier.

All residents who live in the town of Navarro in western Navarro County were evacuated from their homes because of another grass fire in that area.

Ronnie Willis owns a pasture just east of the location, which caught on fire, probably caused by embers spread from the industrial park.

“I don’t know how this thing started,” Willis said. “There’s a whole lot of grass in there. It just keeps coming across the field. They’ve had it out three times and it just keeps sparking.”

Willis could only watch as the fires leaped across his pastures towards his two enormous indoor arenas.

“The grass will grow back. If it doesn’t hurt an animal or burn up the buildings, we can live through it. I just feel sorry for the people whose businesses are being destroyed.”

Residents just off Waterworks fought the grass fire on the east side, turning out with water hoses and hoes to do what they could.

“We got a call to say there was a fire behind our house and to get home quick,” said Gertrude L.H. Richardson, whose house was within a few feet of where the grassfire had been burning.

Volunteers including 11-year-old Kemisha Watts, Brandi Bartee, 14, Amanda Watts, 14 Anthony Richardson, 15 and Ralph Watts, 14, all joined in the effort as several hot-spots continued to appear and burn south of Old Waterworks.

“This is the first time I have helped with something like this. I have watched movies but I never thought I would be burning right here,” added neighbor Lacresha Davis.

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