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Trinity County News 2

Wildfire leads to arson arrest

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082522 fire arrestA fire that hopped property lines and destroyed this outbuilding resulted in the arrest of a resident of The Woodlands on a charge of arson. Courtesy photo

By Tony Farkas
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TRINITY — A resident of The Woodlands faces felony arson charges for a fire that damaged structures on Brown Lane near Westwood Shores on Aug. 16.

Jerome Bernard Toenjes, 67, is facing a charge of arson of a building recklessly damaging a building belonging to another.

Sheriff Woody Wallace said the suspect was burning logs and limbs on his property, and the fire jumped property lines burning a neighbor’s buildings.

According to reports, Deputy J. Scott Moore was dispatched to Brown Lane in the Westwood Shores neighborhood where Trinity and 356 fire departments were battling a large brush fire.

Moore said in the report that several acres were on fire with multiple fire units working. One structure, owned by Leroy Brown, was completely burned.

The structure was a wood-framed shop/storage building detached from the main residence; however, Moore was shown a burn pile of several large logs and fence posts on the nearby property at 126 Brown Lane.

Moore said it appeared to have been burning for an extended period of time.

According to fire department personnel on the scene, it appeared that the burn pile had gotten out of control, igniting dry vegetation nearby. This caused the fire to rapidly spread, cross property lines onto Mr. Brown’s property, damaging the building.

Moore said he located Toenjes, who said that he had been burning the pile “a couple of weeks ago” but denied lighting the fire on Aug. 16. Since the burn ban has been in place for several weeks, Toenjes was arrested.

“The man has been arrested and is now facing felony charges for ignoring the burn ban and recklessly causing destruction,” Wallace said.

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Fires heat up hot weekend

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071422 trinity firesWinds whipped a grass fire on FM 3188 on Thursday. Courtesy photo

By Tony Farkas
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TRINITY — Trinity firefighters responded to eight fire calls over the weekend, including four calls on Friday in 100-degree-plus weather, and the department asks all county residents to please not burn under any circumstances.

A burn ban exists in the county, and dry conditions make any fire hazardous.

Assistant Fire Chief Keith Johnson said that at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday, a transformer exploded on FM 356 at White Rock Acres.

Firefighters found two high-power transmission lines from Entergy broken and draped over lines belonging to Sam Houston Electric Co-op; the event started a four-acre fire in the nearby woods.

Trinity Volunteer Fire Department responded with five trucks and 19 firefighters and called for mutual aid from 356 VFD, which responded with four trucks and 10 firefighters. Texas Forest Service responded with a bulldozer to establish a fire line.

Johnson said the fire was contained in approximately an hour and units stayed on scene until 3 a.m. putting out hot spots. Entergy and SHECO responded with line crews to shut off power and make repairs.

No injuries were reported and no structures were damaged.

Johnson said that another fire broke out at around 2 p.m. Saturday behind Heath and Human Services building on Highway 19 South.

This fire damaged the back wall of a barn and endangered the DHS office and a vacant home next door. The VFD responded with five trucks and 14 firefighters and quickly extinguished the fire before it could extend into other structures.

On Thursday at about 4:15 p.m., approximately 75 acres on FM 3188 erupted in multiple grass fires on Hwy 94 and FM 3188.

Johnson said two brush trucks, two tankers and one engine along with 18 firefighters responded.

A southwest wind pushed several grass fires into wooded areas on the Glendale Hunting Club, and help from Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, 356 VFD and Groveton VFD arrived, and assisted with brush trucks, tankers and firefighters.

Texas Forest Service also responded with three bulldozers and manpower as well as a spotter plane.
The fire was 95 percent contained around 10:40 p.m.

Johnson said no structures were damaged and no injuries were reported.

On Monday at about 12:53 p.m., Trinity firefighters were dispatched to a grass fire at Trinity Plantation. Three trucks and 15 firefighters responded and extinguished the fire in less than 10 minutes.

Johnson said the fire possibly was caused by a tractor cutting grass.  

071422 trinity fires twoThe fire on FM 356 reignited Sunday after a dead tree limb that had been smoldering dropped and fell across the fire line. A grass fire started Monday near Trinity Plantation. Bulldozers from the Texas Forest Service create a fire line.

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House destroyed from fire

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070722 house fireFirefighters work to extinguish a blaze at 249 Creekside Drive. Courtesy photo

TCNS staff

TRINITY — A man’s home and two storage sheds were destroyed as the result of a fire that broke out in the evening of June 29.

Assistant Fire Chief Keith Johnson said the blaze erupted at about 10:20 p.m. at 249 Creekside Drive off FM 1617, the home of James Cox.

When firefighters arrived, the house and storage sheds were engulfed with flames, so the department set up drafting operations and began tanker shuttle for water supply. The 356 Fire Department was called for mutual aid and they responded with tanker, engine, and brush truck.

Trinity VFD had six engines and 18 firefighters on the scene for approximately 3 1/2 hours, and 356 VFD responded with 10 firefighters.
Johnson said the house and contents were a total loss. While the cause is believed to be electrical, Johnson said there is no way to determine it as the area was destroyed.

The Red Cross is providing assistance to the family. 

During this fire a small brush fire started downwind of the house fire and was quickly extinguished by local residents. 

TVFD Brush 1 also responded to a small rekindle fire at the Pineland Forest fire in Glendale during this time.

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One injured in two-semi crash

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070722 car crashjpg(Right) Two semi trucks collided on Friday on Highway 287 north of Groveton. Courtesy photo

TCNS staff

GROVETON – Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers investigated a two-vehicle crash on Friday on U.S. Highway 287 north of Groveton.

Reports indicate that at approximately 8:25 a.m., a 1996 Western Star semi was traveling south while a 2016 Peterbilt semi was traveling north.

The driver of the Peterbilt, Marty Parrish, 47, of Corrigan, was attempting to turn left into a private drive when his vehicle collided with the southbound Western Star, driven by Samuel Sease, 35, of Rusk.

Sease was not injured, but Parrish was transported to Woodland Heights Hospital in Lufkin for treatment, the report states.
This crash remains under investigation.

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Forest fires rage through county

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063022 fires rage in trinityA home is engulfed in flames after a fire broke out on June 19. Smoke from a forest fire could be seen from a distance. Courtesy photos

By Tony Farkas
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Fire departments from all ends of the county battled blazes throughout last week, largely due to storms that produced lightning but no rain.
Trinity Fire Department Assistant Chief Keith Johnson said the fire over this last weekend covered 207 acres of wooded land.

It also was the second time the department responded to the area, as a fired had broken out, again due to lightning, on June 18, which involved 25 acres of wooded area in the area of Pineland Drive and Highway 94.

“We’ve had a lot of dry thunderstorms, which produce lots of lightning in the trees but no rain, he said.

The first fire had been contained in 3 ½ hours. The second, also caused by lightning, occurred on Friday, and on Saturday firefighters were called again for the same area.

Johnson said they were paged out before 4 p.m. Saturday, and they could see the smoke from a distance. The Texas Forest Service was out with a couple of bulldozers making a fire break, and Trinity VFD was protecting a structure.

“We thought we had it contained, but wind came up and the fire spread fast,” he said. “It even crossed the road on 94. Pineland Drive has six residences, and fire was headed that way.”

Trinity called for help, and Groveton, Apple Springs, Friday, Pennington and Highway 356 departments all responded. The Forest Service called in helicopters for water drops.

By Sunday afternoon crews had the blaze 100 percent contained, but still it was smoking on Monday.

Johnson said a fence along 94 melted, but that was the only damage to property other than the forest. The Texas Department of Transportation had Highway 94 shut down for about 3 hours during the fight. No evacuation ordered, but some residents left on their own.

Lightning and dry conditions caused the fire to consume about 207 acres, and Johnson said that county resident need to be extremely cautious.

“I know the Fourth of July is coming up, and even though it’s not illegal to buy fireworks, it still is dangerous to light them off in the dry weather,” he said. “Please be careful.”

On June 19, also on Highway 94, an abandoned home was destroyed by fire.

Johnson said the fire broke out that afternoon off Hwy 94 before high school. A total of five fire units and 15 firefighters responded, and when they arrived, the house was engulfed in flames.

Johnson said no one was living in the house at the time of fire, and it was total loss.

063022 fires rage twoSmoke made battling a blaze difficult by impairing visibility. The house, located near Trinity High School on Highway 94, was a total loss in a fire.

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