A grass fire spread to destroy nine homes in Rendon, southeast of Fort Worth last week, only one day after a grass fire damaged homes in Balch Springs, prompting local fire departments to re-evaluate their approaches to fighting wildfires.
After two grass fires in as many days, fire departments have realized that having access to more brush trucks is critical when fighting grass fires, said The Colony Fire Department Battalion Chief Garrett Rice.
“The difference between a brush truck and a full-size fire engine or fire truck is the size,” he explained. “It’s built on a pickup chassis, and they’re able to get into tighter, wild land, urban interface areas where our larger fire trucks cannot access.”
The Balch Springs grass fire began when a spark from a lawnmower blade ignited tinder-dry grass. The fire quickly spread into an adjacent subdivision, ultimately damaging 26 homes and destroying nine, city Fire Marshal Sean Davis said. Damages were estimated to top $6 million, according to a city statement.
Balch Springs Fire Department said they only had one brush truck, making fighting the wildfire a challenge.
“Every time it would stop to refuel, whatever they had extinguished is picking back up momentum again,” Fire Marshal Sean Davis said. “You could never get ahead of it.”
They needed one more truck to fight the latest fire, he said. The fire department planned to ask the city to beef up its fleet the following week.
Dallas Fire Fighters Association President Jim McDade said Dallas Fire-Rescue also needed additional brush trucks because most of theirs were out of service. “Equipment-wise, we’re struggling with getting brush trucks,” McDade said.
“Stuff breaks,” he said. “This weather is really hard.”
Normally, he explained, the department has four brush trucks to fight fires around the city.
“They’re trying to get the others fixed as fast as they can,” he added.
Dallas Fire-Rescue was considering temporarily renting brush trucks from the manufacturer while firefighters wait for the nonworking ones in their fleet to be fixed.
Meanwhile, McDade said, “Like we did the other day, we’ve got mutual aid in other places.”
Dallas Fire-Rescue and Dallas County Fire, along with the fire departments from Cedar Hill, Combine, DeSoto, Forney, Hutchins, Mesquite, Seagoville, Sunnyvale, and Wilmer helped put out the Balch Springs fire.
Many factors can contribute to wildfires, the most critical of which are extreme drought conditions, wind, and low humidity. One thing fire crews recommend homeowners can do to prevent sparking a fire is to keep lawns mowed and watered.