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Arsonists Suspected in Three Local Grass Fires

State

Firefighters put out hotspots from a fire in Kaufman County. | Image by NBC DFW

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A fire in South Kaufman was extinguished on Thursday, but another in Kaufman County was still battling fire crews on Sunday. Police suspect both were intentionally started.

According to reports, the first fire was ignited near the City of Combine. It was completely contained on July 28, having only reached the size of 60 acres. That fire caused no significant property damage but reportedly came within 10 yards of a home.


The Combine police arrested a suspect who was being held in Kaufman County jail.

The second fire started just after noon on Sunday, and though there was no significant property damage, nine homes were evacuated. The evacuation order was lifted around 3 p.m. the same day. Although residents were allowed to re-enter the neighborhood, the Office of Emergency Management asked the public to avoid the area on County Roads 151 and 151A just east of the Kaufman Walmart while firefighters — both city personnel and volunteers — accessed the area with their equipment.

Witnesses said a flaming trailer caused three separate fires on July 31, which joined to become a single fire. Authorities think the fire-starter unhitched the burning trailer from the vehicle pulling it when the driver wanted to escape.

The fires remain under investigation as both the fire marshal’s office and local law enforcement continue looking for the perpetrator.

“All three fires are approximately 20 percent contained, and there have been no reports of injury, and only one of the nine homes suffered damage,” a Kaufman County press release stated Sunday.

According to the legal definition, the crime could be arson if the fires were intentionally started with the intent to damage vegetation, fences, open-space land or buildings, vehicles, or homes.

Because they had not caused any damage to structures, let alone death, these several Kaufman County fires would be felonies of the second degree, which carry a minimum of two years of jail time and a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $10,000 fine.

Kaufman County officials have issued a county-wide burn ban, during which any outdoor fire is prohibited, with exceptions for firefighter training, grills, and agricultural harvesting or planting, among others. Violating the burn ban is a class C misdemeanor, and violators may be punished with fines of up to $500.

The county, which lies about 30 miles southeast of Dallas, was already under an extended state of emergency for fire danger, particularly after a series of fires, two of which each damaged over 500 acres.

County Judge Hal Richards received permission from the commissioners court on July 26 to extend the state of emergency, which was initially declared on July 18. The declaration is set to expire on August 25.

Anyone with information about either fire is encouraged to contact Kaufman County Fire Marshal Paul Ayres at 469-376-4110.

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