The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

July 15, 2012

Fire safety

— This week, Greenville’s biggest fire of the year came dangerously close to burning homes and businesses in the southern part of our city. Our reporters on the scene said the flames were within just 50 yards of a strip shopping center — not much space at all if the winds were to pick up.

Thankfully, our local firefighters were up to the challenge. Once again, they put their skills, experience and commitment to the test and brought the blaze to a safe conclusion, something that’s been required all too often both this summer and last.

And the worst part? The big fire in Greenville was entirely preventable.

We’re not talking preventable in the Smoky Bear, “everyone can prevent forest fires” kind of way.

No, the fire that could have killed people was apparently started intentionally, it was revealed this week. Investigators found what they describe as an “incendiary device” at the scene, so it looks like someone set the blaze on purpose.

We don’t know whether it was kids playing around or a mentally unstable adult, but what they did was absolutely unconscionable. They quite literally could have killed a person — either someone whose home or business caught fire, or one of the firefighters on the scene — and we hope they’re caught and prosecuted for what they did.

Starting fires isn’t horseplay. It’s not just a prank. We see it almost as an attempted murder because of how dry the conditions are in Hunt County right now, the recent rains notwithstanding.

While it’s good to see so many afternoon and evening showers lately, it’s not good in the sense that some people might be letting their guard down about fire danger. Within the past month, municipal and volunteer firefighters have been busy putting out countless wildfires in the area because there’s so much dry, dead material on the ground that helps small fires grow quickly out of control. Acreage is burned almost every day, and the police scanner stays busy with reports of grass fires large and small.

We hope the recent fires will remind people to do two things.

One, everyone needs to be more careful. The vast majority of fires are started accidentally by things like cigarette butts being flicked out of a car window or small trash fires that aren’t tended carefully. And with the possibility that there’s an arsonist in our midst, we should be extra vigilant and look for anything that looks out of place so that, hopefully, whoever’s responsible for it will be caught.

And two, everyone needs to support our local firefighters. They have some of the most stressful and dangerous jobs in the community, and they’re often either underpaid or working on a volunteer basis.

No one should take their safety for granted. Firefighters play one of the most important role in keeping our lives and property safe, and for that we’re extremely grateful.