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Crews battle suspicious fires

3/13/2014

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Ellis County rural firefighters chased yet another string of fires Wednesday night, less than a week after responding to five fires during the course of four hours.

Ten fires were reported Wednesday night, Ellis County Rural Fire Chief Richard Klaus said this morning, all of them being investigated as possible arsons.

An investigator with the State Fire Marshal's office already was on the scene this morning, looking at the fires from Wednesday night.

The first call was reported to emergency dispatchers shortly after 5 p.m., with the last call filed at 7:36 p.m. Firefighters finally finished up at nearly 10 p.m.

In addition to the Wednesday evening fires, Klaus said a Tuesday fire in the Yocemento area now is being investigated as suspicious.

"We've got to catch this person who's doing this before someone gets hurt," Klaus said this morning.

Klaus isn't releasing too much information concerning the fires, not wanting to hamper the ongoing investigation.

He was quick to say, however, residents need to remain watchful.

"If they see a suspicious vehicle around, they need to call," Klaus said of contacting authorities. "They need to keep they're eyes open."

The string of fires prompted sheriff's deputies to flood into rural areas, watching for anything suspicious and asking residents to call if they see anything unusual.

Those 10 fires from Wednesday are in addition to five reported Thursday night.

The State Fire Marshal's office was called to help determine the cause of those fires, and Klaus said they still are under investigation.

In that string of fires, a horse trailer and hay bales were destroyed. A trailer house used as storage also was set ablaze.

The string of fires from Wednesday night also are under investigation.

"Can't tell you," Klaus said when asked if the fires Thursday intentionally were set. "They're all under investigation. They look suspicious."

All of the fires Thursday were grass fires, although he said an old granary was set ablaze on Norfolk Road.

Now, he said, a 25-acre fire Tuesday north of Yocemento is being looked at.

"It's being investigated, too," he said.

Klaus said it's lucky no firefighters have been injured in the string of fires.

Firefighters in Ellis County are volunteers, although they get paid a minimal fee for responding to fires.

Klaus said they receive anywhere form $17 to $31 to respond to a fire, and $10 an hour for time they spend in the field.

"Which is minimal for what they do," he said.

While reporting times still are being assembled, here's where Wednesday's fires were located:

* 900 block of Locust Grove, involving grass and trees, reported at 5:18 p.m.

* 1200 block of St. John-St. Andrew, reported at 5:58 p.m.

* 1500 block of St. John-St. Andrew, discovered by firefighters en route to the second fire.

* 2400 block of 230th Avenue, also discovered en route to the second fire.

* 2000 block of Norfolk Road, reported at 7:10 p.m., involving an old granary.

* 1900 block of Norfolk Road, involving grass.

* 300 block of 280th Avenue, involving grass.

* 280th and Grants Villa Road, involving grass.

* 1000 block of Butterfield Trail Road, reported at 7:36 p.m, involving grass and trees.