LUBBOCK, Texas — After a fire that devastated 10 homes on East 1st and Olive Street on Thursday afternoon, local residents said East Lubbock County should put more fire hydrants in the area so that firefighters can respond more quickly to situations like this one – and potentially save more homes in the future.
“As a citizen you expect the city to provide basic services, basic services include fire hydrants whatever is needed for the fire department to have what they need,” said resident Marie Gonzales.
Gonzales explained that since she pays several taxes to the city of Lubbock, she said the city should have fire hydrants to protect all of its citizens.
“If they don’t have the basic water hydrants to fight fires. That’s pretty ridiculous. It’s hurting them because they’re exhausted,” said Gonzales. “These people need basic services, it’s a basic necessity. As a property owner out here I think we need the basic services, if we have to pay.”
A full day after the fire started, it was still smoking with smaller fires breaking out over several hours. However, Roosevelt Volunteer Fire Fighters were on the scene all day battling the flames. Fire Chief Bill Sides said that the fire was started with one person burning trash.
“The guy was burning trash in his backyard and it got out of control real quick and the spread to the grass,” said Sides. “It didn’t take long for it to get away.”
Local fire departments from Lubbock, Roosevelt, Idalou, Ransom Canyon and Buffalo Springs responded to the scene after a call came into the sheriff’s office at approximately 4:30PM on Thursday afternoon. Roosevelt was the first to arrive, but officials said that everyone worked very well together to combat the flames.
“With a fire like this we arrived and it was already getting out of control,” said Lubbock Fire and Rescue Lieutenant Phillip Grandon. “We go there and we responded where we see what’s already burned and we try to prevent that from spreading to other structures.”
The heat was already ruthless for the firefighters – with temperatures near 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Lubbock Fire and Rescue’s rehab unit also arrived to provide relief for the approximately one hundred first responders.
“These types of incidents with a lot of personnel, multiple structures on fire, several jurisdictions, there’s a lot of moving parts and it takes a lot of coordination,” said Grandon.
Firefighters said it takes a while to control large fires like this one, due to the large quantity of debris.
“When you have a high fuel load and lots of materials burning, they get packed down,” said Grandon. “It’s just really hard to get water on that because the water may not be able to get to it so you actually have to get an excavator out here to take all turn all those fuels over and maybe even take them away and dump them somewhere.”
Due to the area being outside of city limits, there are a select number of fire hydrants – with the closest one being a quarter mile away. Officials had to set up a water shuttle, filling up 2000 gallons of water into tanks from the hydrant and bringing them to the scene.
“We ended up running a tanker shuttle, I think there was 5 departments that brought trucks and tankers to each of our engines,” said Sides.
Sides said that he had seen fires like this one in the area before, but that this one was the biggest.
“Just down the street about a month ago there was one that looked very similar to this – it was about three houses down,” said Sides.
Among the debris there was a collapsed roof, several cars and hundreds of personal items destroyed. There is also no burn ban. Grandon said that if you do choose to burn, it’s important to be especially careful and aware of your surroundings.
“We want the public to be aware that you cannot burn in the city limits, there are no open burnings. You cannot burn trash, grass,” said Grandon. “However for those out in the county, be aware that the wind may not be blowing, but fuels are preheated, everything is ready to burn. If a fire gets away from you it can get away very quickly.”