Chapel Hill fire one of many, due to dry and windy winter

CHAPEL HILL (KYTX) - Recent rains have kept East Texas looking greener than usual this winter, but don't let that fool you. It's still extremely dry, and that combined with winds has firefighters working more fires than usual.

A fire Sunday in Chapel Hill kept firefighters busy as it blew through acres of dry grass.

"It's close to 5 acres of the 40 acre track, burned."

Trent Spradlin got a panicked phone call from his grandmother Sunday afternoon, about a fire on his Chapel Hill property.

"That was my first concern," he said, "was about her and my aunt and cousins that all live out here."

When he found out they were safe, he made the trip out to his property to see the damage.

Spradlin took us to the burned area of his property. He said, "Looks like it came down from the house up here and down the fence line, over some property we have, over the truck."

The truck, damaged in the fire, belongs to Spradlin.

"It's a truck that I've had for a long time," he said. "My dad and I started it as a project back in early 2000."

Now, just shattered glass and metal, melted in a fire that all started from a few sparks.

Lt. Justin Stowe with the Chapel Hill Fire Department said, "It was started by a cutting torch. The gentleman was cutting and started some grass on fire and accidentally got away from him."

Spradlin says the man with the cutting torch owns the house next to his property.

Firefighters on scene said just because it's been raining so much, people tend to think the ground isn't as dry.  The ground of Spradlin's property is partly green underneath, but the top of the grass laid completely charred and that's because it's still so dry.

"It's going to start fires," Stowe said. "Even though it is very wet, the top brush will still catch on fire and spread very easily due to the high winds."

He says he's seen a big increase in these fast spreading fires since the wind has picked up this winter. However, he says there are things you can do to keep your family and property safe.

"Keep high vegetation away from your fires, and do not burn on days that have high winds," he said.

As Spradlin looks out over his charred land, he says he's just glad no one was hurt.

"It's a bunch of burned grass and damaged property but it's just stuff," he said.

Chapel Hill, Jackson Heights, Arp Fire Departments, and the Smith County Fire Marshal's office responded to the fire.

Crews say it took about 45 minutes to put the fire out.


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