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Thursday, September 29, 2022
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Red Cross Opens Emergency Shelter in City Battling Grass Fires


American Red Cross Disaster Services vehicle | Image by Ken Wolter/Shutterstock

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The Dallas chapter of the American Red Cross transformed the community recreation center in Balch Springs into an emergency shelter on Monday for the relief of the families who lost their homes to a confluence of grass fires.

Dozens of people were left homeless when their homes were affected by the fire; nine of them were destroyed.

In a statement provided to CBS affiliate Channel 11 News, Red Cross spokesperson Jen Edwards explained that this emergency shelter had to be established in record time because of how quickly grass fires had been destroying entire sections of neighborhoods around Balch Springs.

Balch Springs Fire Marshal Sean Davis said the latest fire was completely contained by late Monday night.

Some individuals who lost their homes to the Monday fires were stunned at how sudden the situation became when strong winds shifted the direction of the flames.

In an interview with CBS 11, a young woman whose family is currently staying in the shelter recalled that it only took seconds for the fire to reach her suburban house once she smelled smoke in the air.

All the families currently assisted by the Red Cross left their homes in a rush; they had no time to take anything with them, so their immediate needs ranged from food and medicine to personal hygiene supplies and smartphones.

Emergency supplies and comfort items have been arriving at the temporary shelter from other Red Cross chapters across the Lone Star State. Relief workers are confident they will be able to provide all the short-term recovery assistance these families need at this time.

However, The Dallas Morning News reported that the Balch Springs brush fires had already destroyed 26 residential structures in three subdivisions. The Red Cross is aware of these reports and is prepared to set up additional shelters if needed.

Officials report that due to the extended droughts, strong winds, low humidity, and record-high summer temperatures, Dallas is experiencing unique weather conditions.

Unlike wildfires, which are monitored by a network of sensors and satellite imagery, brush fires are more unpredictable. Whereas evacuation orders and operations are often carried out with sufficient anticipation during wildfires, this is rarely possible with grass fires because of the abundance of flammable material and fuels commonly found in suburban areas.

The cause and origin of the brush fires will need to be determined by the Dallas County Fire Marshal in an upcoming investigation. What is known about the fires thus far has been reported in detail by the DMN.

It all started in a greenbelt space not far from I-20 and Belt Line Road; the field was being cleared by landscaping crews when one of the workers noticed a fire had broken out in an uncut section. The initial report was made in the afternoon, but it only took minutes for the flames to spread and consume hundreds of square feet.

It took firefighters several hours to completely put out the fire. Before the fire crews arrived, some neighbors attempted to douse the flames using their garden hoses. Other neighbors tried to remove patio furniture and other items that could have provided even more fuel to the fires, but their efforts were cut short by the immediate need to escape.   

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