West Orange firefighters battle multi-acre blaze; assistant chief talks about county’s challenges

Published 11:52 am Monday, August 28, 2023

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WEST ORANGE — Fighting a woods fire is difficult, especially for a small volunteer fire department.

West Orange Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Simmie Gibson was speaking of a woods fire on Irving Street near FM 1006 they, and others, battled Sunday.

The call was toned out at 4:30 p.m. Sunday and took several hours before it was 100 percent contained.

As of Monday morning, a crew with the Texas A&M Forest Service was set to head to the location of the approximate 8-plus acres fire to work on hotspots and cut trees.

Gibson said there were still trees ablaze. Gibson noted the recent Jasper County fire where resides had to be evacuated out of harm’s way, saying he anticipates that fire will still be burning a month from now.

West Orange Volunteer Fire Department responders and others battled a blaze Sunday on Irving Street near FM 1006. (Courtesy photo)

The West Orange Volunteer Fire Department responded with two engines and approximately a dozen personnel. Mutual aid was requested to assist and included Emergency Services District 2, 3 and 4, Pinehurst Fire Department, Orange Fire Department and Bridge City Volunteer Fire and Rescue.

Texas A&M Forest Service was also called and assisted with a bulldozer.

The dozer clears a path for a firebreak by clearing vegetation.

In addition to the fire departments there was assistance from law enforcement with traffic control, Gibson said. Acadian ambulance was also at the scene, and no injuries were reported. Those battling the blaze worked to stay hydrated, he said.

Gibson said the department got to the site quickly, and no homes were in jeopardy.

The cause of the fire has not been determined as of Monday.

Orange County ESD No. 4 and other departments were busy over the weekend with other fires and incidents.

According to social media, they responded to a woods fire on Interstate 10 eastbound at a former rest area, a woods fire at FM 1130 and Zavalla, West Grigsby and North Linscomb fire, grass fire on Oak Road, mutual aid to Vidor for a structure/grass fire, rekindle on the woods fire on Zavalla Road and mutual aid to Bridge City for a grass fire, plus response to a motor vehicle accident and three calls for downed power lines.

Dry conditions are going to persist, and the area remains under a burn ban.

Texas A&M Forest Service advises people not park or drive on tall, dry grass

“Grass can ignite immediately when it meets surfaces of 500 degrees or more,” according to the forestry service’s Facebook page. “Catalytic converters located underneath vehicles can reach up to 1,200 degrees or more under normal conditions and 2,000 degrees if overworked or clogged. Nine out of 10 wildfires are human-caused and preventable.”

— Written By Mary Meaux