Liberty County firefighters have responded to three structure fires over the last three nights, two of which are being blamed on people trying to stay warm in freezing temperatures caused by the arctic storm.
On Feb. 13, a travel trailer on CR 133 North in Moss Bluff was destroyed by fire while the owner was sleeping inside his vehicle on the property.
“More than likely, it was an electrical fire, but right now it’s undetermined,” said Liberty County Fire Marshal Bill Hergemueller.
On the following night, Feb. 14, firefighters from ESD 3 responded to a fire inside an abandoned house on CR 4281 in the Westlake area. Hergemueller said vagrants staying inside the house were attempting to use a grill to stay warm. The fire in the grill ignited other items in the house, completely destroying the home by the time firefighters arrived.
On Monday, Feb. 15, a fire was inadvertently set by a man and woman who were living in a mobile home on CR 645 in the Kenefick area.
Hergemueller said the house was occupied by the brother of the property owner. However, it had no power hooked up, so the man and a female companion were using an old wood-burning stove for heat and cooking.
“The stove is the point of origin for the fire,” the fire marshal said. The house, which was actually a combination of three mobile homes, was a total loss.
Hergemueller said there have been two previous fires at that same residence. A shop and an RV had previously been burned.
With people desperate to stay warm amid power outages or a lack of connected utilities, Hergemueller said it is important to use extreme caution when using fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.
“Keep combustibles away from fires,” he said. “Space heaters as well are notorious for starting house fires. Using an extension cord with a space heater is a no-no. Don’t put heaters next to couches or on carpet, or around anything that can ignite. You should make sure they are sitting on something solid.”
With power outages causing people to panic as they try to heat their homes, Hergemueller said extreme caution is needed when handling generators, too.
“Don’t burn a generator in your house. They produce a poisonous gas that will kill you,” the fire marshal said.