Couple's Home Destroyed By Grass Fire On Christmas Eve - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/26/05-Cherokee County

Couple's Home Destroyed By Grass Fire On Christmas Eve

An East Texas couple is burned out of their home on Christmas Eve due to a grass fire. It happened Saturday afternoon in Mixon on FM 3052 and FM 4916. The blaze burned 200 acres, a mobile home and threatened several other homes.

"It's not the first grass fire that we've had," said Eric Smith, whose home burned down. "We've had several small ones in the past they've been able to put out before they spread."

But on Christmas Eve, Eric and Penny Smith were not so fortunate. While they were away with family, a fire destroyed their home. "We were very fortunate that neither one of us was here," said Penny. "I feel pretty blessed that nothing more happened. It could have affected more people than it did."

Penny says the fire was spreading so quickly, they may not have made it out alive, had they been there.  High winds fanned the flames, with seven volunteer fire departments battling the blaze.

Forecasters are predicting another day of windy weather tomorrow. Firefighters say be extra careful if you're planning to do any outdoor burning, if outdoor burning is allowed in your area. So, pay attention to burn bans in effect and find out about weather conditions, to see if it's extremely dry or windy. Build a burn pit or use a burn barrel with a screen over the top of it. Debris could come out and travel off into the distance and spark another fire.

And, make sure you burn in a clear area. "In the drought conditions that we are in, 14 to 15 inches behind on rainfall, it's very easy to start a fire unintentionally," said City of Tyler firefighter Michael Woeltel.

Woeltel says do not burn rubbers, plastics, or any kind of petroleum-based products that are going to produce any kind of heavy black smoke. "They burn so much hotter than say just brush trimmings," said Woeltel. "They will heat the fuels around it to a higher temperature a lot faster." And, do not burn paper. It can drift and can have a fire start a half mile away if it gets caught in the wind.

As for what caused the fire that destroyed the Smith's home, that's still undetermined. They just hope the same thing does not happen to someone else.

Oralia ortega, reporting.

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