Those Who Survived Fast-Moving Fire Say It's Too Dry To Burn

Sunday's fire of about a hundred acres destroyed a family's home in Smith County, actually melting the steel frame. It was the first home in Smith County lost by grass fire all of this year, and it began with only sparks. It's just that dry.

The blaze started about 3:00 Sunday afternoon near Interstate 20 and F.M. 757 near Winona.   Investigators say when a boat trailer broke down along I-20, likely spraying sparks along the grassy shoulder. The owner apparently left the boat behind and hasn't been located. But Mike and Delores Lawson lost their home. The steel frame melted.

Their next door neighbor says with the extreme dryness and gusty winds, there was little that could stop the flames.

The boat trailer suspected of causing the fire was impounded, and investigators are following leads to find the owner. Smith county's fire marshal says various charges could be filed.

Chuck Barnett's home of 20 years was he says just minutes from going up in smoke.

"I've raised my grandson here and my boys, and I lost my wife here, and this place means a lot to me," he says of his home.

He fought with a garden hose, and with some prayers.  But he knows as the summer wears on, the ground dries further, even those who live well out of sight could start an inferno all over again.

"I stopped a long time ago when it got so dry. And I haven't had a fire here. And I've got enough sense to know that when you have woods like this, you don't burn," he says.

The smoke is still in the air, and as he looks to above through the withering trees, he hopes for rain that's been too scant every time.

"I don't see a break in it. Even if we get a rain, it's not going to stop it."

The showers that we occasionally get aren't really helping matters because we're losing a quarter-of-an-inch of moisture every day from our soil, so a half-inch rain really only buys us two days.

Fire marshal Jim Seaton says they've actually written fewer tickets for burning compared to December and January.

"We think the citizens are more aware of the environment and are not burning, but we run across the occasional person out there who says they weren't aware of the burn ban," Seaton says.

Meanwhile, Barnett keeps a close watch, but he'd rather not.  For this is where he plans to spend his life, in the peace of nature.

"I just could see it in my mind, that I lose everything I own, and I'm too old to move anymore, I don't want to move anymore," Barnett says.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.