Raging grass fire destroys 975 acres

by Crystal Gottfried

Comal County Engineer Tom Hornseth issued a memo to commissioners last A raging grass fire last Wednesday was believed started by welders who were working on a fence line at the Wegner Ranch.

The fire raged for over seven hours and took the efforts of more than 15 fire departments with over 74 firefighters and 33 fire trucks and equipment before being brought under control.

According to a press release by New Braunfels Fire Marshal Darren L. Brinkkoeter, the New Braunfels Fire Department received a call from the Canyon Lake Fire/EMS Department at 12: 11 pm on Wednesday, August 16, 2020 to assist at a grass fire in the 1800 block of Purgatory Road off FM 306.

When fire units arrived they found approximately 25 acres of grass and brush on fire with the fire quickly moving towards the north. Additional resources from the Spring Branch, Bracken, South Hays and San Marcos Fire departments were requested throughout the afternoon.

“After about 15-20 minutes, the conditions along with the wind and terrain of the land quickly spread the fire to 50 + acres,” said Brinkkoeter’s release. “Knowing the extremely dry conditions, additional resources were called from the Texas Forest Service.”

“The Forest Service brought in an aerial observation airplane, 2 Black Hawk helicopters, a smaller Bell 206 helicopter, all three with water buckets, and two ground task forces consisting of bull dozers, wild-land engines, and support staff to assist with public relations, and fire communications.”

Due to the extreme temperatures that affected the firefighters, additional help was requested from neighboring Hays, Blanco, and Bexar counties.

The American Red Cross and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) were called to help firefighters rest and cool off; and the Comal County Road Department and Dove Tire assisted with fuel and tire replacement. Comal and Hays County Sheriffs Offices assisted with traffic control.

911 operators were overwhelmed with phone calls about the blaze and Sheriff’s Deputies dispatched to check on the report had a hard time finding the fire.

Although the fire was described as being on the “Wegner Ranch” on Purgatory Road, two deputies could see the smoke and called it “a pretty good fire” eight minutes after the emergency call was received.

Approximately 20 homes were threatened by the blaze at one point, but no damage was reported. In addition, no major injuries were reported because of the fire.

“At dusk, the approximate acreage burned was reported to be 900 acres by the Texas Forest Service,” said Brinkkoeter’s release. This number increased to 975 on Thursday after a GIS assessment of the burned land.

Fire crews continued to extinguish hot spots on Thursday, with the help of the Texas Forest Service who were cutting a perimeter with bull dozers around the fire.

In the aftermath of this grassfire and the recent fire destruction of a Canyon Lake home, fire officials are cautioning residents to be continuously vigilant about the area’s dry and volatile conditions.

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