Fire contained

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David Minton/DRC
The stream of water from Lewisville Fire Department Boat 169 hits hot spots on the side of the Hickory Creek as firefighters from around Denton County work to extinguish a grass fire west of the FM 2499 bridge over Lewisville Lake, Sunday, March 30, 2014, in Highland Village.
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A wildfire that burned for two days in the greenbelt near Lewisville Lake was finally contained Monday afternoon, fire officials said.

At the height of the fire, which consumed an estimated 100 acres, 125 firefighters were working by hand with tools to fight the blaze, which erupted in a area that was inaccessible by vehicles, said Jody Gonzalez, chief fire marshal for Denton County.

By Monday afternoon, just two firefighters from the Lake Cities fire department and two from the county’s emergency services were on hand to monitor the embers as the fire burned itself out.

The fire spread throughout the greenbelt near FM2499 and Lewisville Lake early Sunday afternoon and burned overnight into Monday.

Firefighters contained the fire by digging a 5-foot fire break with hand tools to prevent it from spreading. But because there were no access points for emergency vehicles, firefighters were forced to let the fire burn itself out, Gonzalez said.

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

Though an official cause for the blaze has not been determined, a fire investigator on the 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.

No injuries or damages to structures were reported, Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said it could take a few days for the fire to burn out, but expected showers on Wednesday could offer some relief if the fire is still smoldering.

Lingering drought in the region, however, could bring additional fires to North Texas in coming months. The region has had its third-driest start this year since records have been kept, according to Jennifer Dunn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

“We have had below-average rainfall for quite some time now, and that only elevates the fire risk,” Dunn said.

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

Denton County’s lakes are 10 percent lower now than they were one year ago, according to the Texas Water Development Board.

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

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

The Lewisville Fire Department was able to use one of its boats to fight the flames from the lake.

Gonzalez said 13 fire departments assisted with the blaze. The emergency services department attempted to pull in one crew and truck from each community in Denton County to keep from taxing the departments in case of other fires, he said.

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. It’s only the second time they’ve been called to the area; the first time was on March 11 during another inaccessible fire in Trophy Club that covered more than 180 acres.

Smoke could be seen for miles, but none of the homes around the lake were in immediate danger, officials said. A few horse trails in the timberland were the only casualties of the fire, Gonzalez said.

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

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

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


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