Brush fire in Balch Springs burns 26 homes, leaving dozens homeless

BALCH SPRINGS — A large grass fire swept through a neighborhood in Balch Springs on Monday afternoon where it burned down 26 homes — destroying nine of them — and leaving dozens of people homeless.

According to Balch Springs Fire Marshal Sean Davis, the blaze began while workers were mowing a nearby field at the northwest corner of Interstate 20 and South Belt Line Road, though officials are still investigating to find out if someone is at fault. A row of houses along Broadview Drive, not far from Mackey Elementary School, caught fire. By Monday evening, the grass fire had been brought under control and the house fires were extinguished. There were no injuries and officials said they were investigating to determine if anyone was at fault.

Some residents of the neighborhood tried to put out the fire with garden hoses. Others had just a few minutes to get out of their homes, leaving everything behind.

“Lose everything. Just everything,” said owner Miguel Quinonez, who had lived in the home with his wife for nearly 14 years. He said he had just bought a new truck that burned out in the garage.

The blaze in Balch Springs, a town of about 25,000 just southeast of Dallas, came as firefighters in North Texas battle blazes that have destroyed dozens of homes, drought and abnormally high temperatures high creating hazardous conditions. The fire marshal said the Balch Springs field tended to have a few fires a year that died out quickly.

“It happens in many places, just people cutting hay or grass or something, and they cut something that they didn’t see, and it starts a fire and then moves like crazy,” Davis said.

The authorities do not have the exact number of displaced people. They will give an update at 9 a.m. Tuesday to let residents know when they can return.

“We are in unique weather conditions right now”, with hot weather and dry ground.

Wanda Blanchette-Ware said she barely had time to wake her son Jacoby Ogunniyi and her two dogs, Bella and Lola, to get out of their Balch Springs home as the fire approached.

Her son works during the day and had been sleeping because of the police knocking on the door. She said she went and knocked on her window.

“Honey, there’s a fire, please get up!” she said waking him up.

Blanchette-Ware said she saw her neighbors watering their lawns but the fire was too strong.

“Then the wind came and blew the fire all the way down the street,” she said.

As the blaze spread, the fire marshal called for the evacuation of all homes and structures on Broadview Drive and Bell Manor Court, which also backs up to the land where the grass fire s is declared.

Balch Springs Town Manager Susan Cluse said the town is working with the Red Cross to set up an overnight shelter at a recreation center in town, and some local hotels will accommodate residents and their pets. company for a longer period. The Red Cross will help displaced residents to obtain basic necessities, find temporary accommodation and prepare insurance documents. Residents whose houses have not been damaged can stay there.

“At the moment we don’t know where we are going to spend the night tonight,” said Roberto Pinero, whose 13-year-old house he had recently renovated was destroyed. He said his son called him about the fire and “when I went to open the back door the fire hit me in the face and I pulled my family out.”

Fire crews from Dallas and other nearby towns assisted Balch Springs crews.

Locals said there have been several recent fires in the area. Some have expressed concern that the grass in the field where the fire started has grown too tall.

“This area has been undeveloped for so long, it’s like kindling there,” said Joe Perez, a homeowner who lives about four houses away from the fire.

Dallas Central Appraisal District figures showed the homes were built around 2005 and valued in the mid-$200,000s.

Michael Jaramillo was at work when he received text messages warning him that his house was on fire. It was among the destroyed houses.

“It’s just sad. I don’t really care about things, all the clothes and stuff,” he said. “I think about things I can’t get back, pictures of my siblings and all that kind of stuff.”

Resident Wendy Reppond was searching the neighborhood on Monday afternoon for her cat, Miss Kitty. Reppond said she was able to catch her two dogs and her bird, but did not have time to find the birdcage.

“Third house from me, that one is gone,” she said. “I can’t find my cat. They won’t let me go home to find my cat.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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