Crews work to contain brush fire

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David Minton/DRC
Firefighters in a four-wheel drive utility vehicle head back to the command post as crews work on small perimeter fires surrounding a grass fire along Hickory Creek, west of the FM 2499 bridge over Lewisville Lake, Sunday, March 30, 2014, in Highland Village.
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A fire continues to burn in the greenbelt near FM 2499 and Lewisville Lake where officials say it is about 90 percent contained, according to Denton County officials.

At the height of the fire, which consumed an estimated 100 acres, more than 125 people were working by hand with tools to get inside the area inaccessible by vehicles, said Jody Gonzalez, chief fire marshal for Denton County.

"When you have to do it like that, it comes down to human resources, not equipment resources," he said.

Firefighters attempted to contain the fire by digging a 5-foot fire break with hand tools to prevent it from spreading.

Because there were no access points for emergency vehicles, firefighters were forced to let the fire burn itself out, Gonzalez said.

“The main problem we’re having is getting access to the fire and manpower,” Gonzalez said. “Since we have to dig the trenches by hand, we need as many men as we can get.”

At least 30 acres burned in an open field once covered by water, he said. Even a wake buoy caught fire and burned - a visible sign of just how much the lake has dropped in recent months during the ongoing drought.

"It tells you there should have been water [where the fire burned]," he said.

Another part of the fire continued to burn in the heavy timber area surrounding the lake, fed by fallen trees and lots of dry underbrush.

"The guys are back out there today, keeping an eye out," Gonzalez said.

The Lewisville Fire Department was able to use one of its boats to fight the flames from the lake. Gonzalez said they called in assistance from 13 fire departments, attempting to pull in one crew and truck from each community to keep from taxing the departments in case of other fires.

Tarrant and Collin County crews also responded to offer assistance. A PHI helicopter took a fire official for a flyover to see how big the fire was and where it was headed, he said.

The Texas Forest Service assisted, bringing a dozer to help create the fire break, he said. It's only the second time they've been called to the area, the first time on March 11 during another inaccessible fire in Trophy Club.

Though homes surrounded the lake where smoke could be seen for miles, none were in immediate danger, officials said. A few horse trails in the timberland were casualties of the fire, Gonzalez said.

Though a cause has not been determined, a fire investigator on scene found remnants of a campsite including tiki torches and charcoal.

"It's our opinion that it was started by someone camping or fishing down there," he said.

The county is averaging about one fire a day, Gonzalez said, adding that most were in the 3- to 5-acre range and accessible by equipment, making them easier to extinguish.

High winds with gusts up to 35 miles per hour Sunday proved problematic but not insurmountable.

“The wind is presenting us with some challenges, but it’s not our biggest concern,” Gonzalez said. “For now, our problem is that we can’t get to the fire and it could take a few days before it’s completely out.”

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter @JDHarden.

DAWN COBB can be reached at 940-566-6879 and via Twitter @DawnCobbDRC


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