11:53 p.m. CDT July 25, 2022
A grass fire burned into a suburb of Dallas, Texas Monday afternoon destroying 9 homes and damaging another 17, according to city officials. It occurred in Balch Springs when a mower struck an object in a field, creating a spark which ignited dry grass near Interstate 20 and South Beltline Road.
A steady breeze pushed the fire into a row of houses adjacent to the field. One by one the fire ignited house after house, aided by a fence that ran behind and between all of the homes which contributed to the fuel load and the continuous spread.
In the 30-minute video below very few firefighters are seen for the first 20 minutes. Balch Springs, with an estimated population of about 25,000 in 2019 has about eight firefighters working on any given day, Fox 4 news reported. The fire was well established when the video began, with at least one home already burning.
Looking at the video from a firefighter’s perspective, it is interesting to see how the fire progresses as the fence and outbuildings burn intensely, structures ignite, police gather in the street, a dog in a backyard looks worried (at 17:48), and little is seen in the video to initially stop the spread through the field or the neighborhood. However we don’t see the street side of the homes except at the very beginning; there may have been more firefighter activity on that side. There was a tower/ladder truck in the street that looked like it kept about four houses from being destroyed.
Our hearts go out to the residents who lost their homes.
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5 thoughts on “Grass fire burns into Dallas suburb, destroys 9 homes”
Great film that shows the hazard created by wooden fences. Wood fences act like a fuse connecting houses in neighborhoods… also note the progression of the fire into outbuildings, and urban clutter in the yards, then to eaves and gutters.
Wood fences should have a 5 foot non combustible break where they tie into the home. Gutter guards are cheap and must have… and the 5 foot clearance in the Home Ignition Zone would have helped.
What’s wrong with the Fire Service there in Texas? Balch Springs is at the edge of a major metropolitan area and near the WUI. Here in Central Washington, we’d have mutual aid in the initial tone out and, upon arrival of the first incoming units, there would be an upgrade to second alarm with a request for air support, which at the 20 minute point in this event, would be dropping water. All of our local FDs, State, BLM USFS, would together, jump on this like flies on (you fill the blank.) Or is the Texas philosophy “we can do it ourselves?”
Given the fast spread of a grassfire and those wind speeds and the number of houses burning in the first row, it is amazing how only 20 or so got destroyed/severely damaged. The fire would have take less than a couple of minutes to reach the first houses. maybe the relatively low number of damaged houses is a testament to the quick fire fighting response and the fact that home owners were on site to extinguish fire brands from the burning houses. Maybe the fire service can be credited to have saved ten of houses.
There is no USFS, BLM, etc on the Great Plains in any number. Some areas might have USFWS or BIA that will come help. Nor is there a plethora of aircraft. In my jurisdiction in 2 decades I have never seen an aircraft used on a fire. Mostly its mutual aid, and that can get sketchy during the busy season. Few of our fires last through the first burning period. We will have them go hundreds or thousands of acres, then the sun goes down and it goes out. So unless other resources are stationed close by they won’t show up until the show is over. As stated perhaps the response limited the damage. The fire was likely already to the fence and potentially in the back yards of multiple homes before the first unit was toned out. They received mutual aid from Mesquite and Dallas.
Wildfire Today readers maybe interested in recent article on spread rates of grassfires under critical burning conditions: https://www.mdpi.com/2571-6255/5/2/55
Wild Rose Fire Behaviour, Leduc County, Alberta