Next step in cleaning up the mess - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Next step in cleaning up the mess

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

HAWKINS, TX (KLTV) - Gray skies are clearing up over Hawkins as the assault on the massive tire fire continues. Crews worked through the night trying to contain Monday night's massive tire fire right off Highway 14. Wednesday, city officials lifted the evacuation order. Students at Hawkins ISD will be back in class tomorrow, but there's still plenty to do before the situation is under wraps.

Officials are focusing on everything. The fire still has to be put out, and hotspots will be smoldering for sometime. Authorities are still trying to figure out, why and what caused it in the first place, and what's going to happen to the property in the future. Officials spent most of the day just trying to knock out a couple of things on a pretty extensive to-do list. The primary goal has not changed.

"We're still working together with the agencies here making sure everybody is safe," said John Jones, a Hawkins fire marshal. "That's our first responsibility here."

The nearly 30 residents evacuated from The Gardens Assisted Living Facility came back home, downtown was back open for business, and area volunteer fire crews filled tanker trucks with water from the Sabine river to help cool things down.

"There's still some smoldering underneath, but primarily what you're seeing is steam," explained Eric Delgado, with the EPA.

You can also see smoke from flare-ups as dozers till through burned rubber to reach all the hotspots. The caution signs are still flashing and the cause of the suspicious fire is still under investigation.

"[We are] gonna interview the residents in the area to see if they saw anything suspicious," said Jones.

The evacuation order came in Tuesday morning. The EPA says air quality never reached their action levels, despite the dense, black smoke that blanketed the area.

"We did have one exceedance right at the incident command post, but that's essentially, on-scene," said Delgado. 

"Was it an irritant," I asked.

"Yeah, it was...as far as the actual particles in the air that we measured...it wasn't all that high," he answered. 

Even while the smoke continues to rise, the future of the site is on everyone's mind.

"Currently, the state does not have the funds to do disposal," said Leroy Biggers, with TCEQ. "But we will be looking and investigating any funds that do become available to address that...because it's also a concern of ours for the people's health and just to the environment in general."

"The tire issue we're going to continue working with that until we get it resolved," said Jones.

With hopes that this never happens again.

We spoke with District 5 Representative Bryan Hughes, who represents this area of Wood County. He says that he has been working with city officials about this tire pile for months. Right now, they are waiting on the Texas legislature to approve $1.2 million to clean up the mess.

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