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Arson suspected in house fire

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Photo by John Stith
The presence of many stored propane tanks in buildings on Roper Drive contributed to the danger of fighting a house fire on the property.

Photo by John Stith
By the time firefighting units arrived on the fire scene at Roper Drive, a two-story wood frame house was completely involved, according to Bandera Fire Marshal John Stith.

A structure fire that occurred last month is under investigation as possible arson, according to Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith.
At 11:28 am, Friday, July 24, a 9-1-1 emergency dispatch operator with the sheriff's office received a report of a house on fire on Roper Drive, just off Old Loop 173. "When the county's volunteer fire departments arrived on the scene a short while later, firefighters found a two-story wood frame building completely involved," Stith said. Bandera VFD served as the primary unit, assisted by departments from Pipe Creek, Medina Lake, Lakeshore and Tarpley.
Apparently the blaze had originated from a separate structure on the property, which was described as possibly being a storage shed. "The firefighters were unable to save the buildings, which were completely destroyed," Stith said. He added that when the units arrived, even some trees adjacent to the house and outbuilding were burning.
According to Stith, the fire also crossed a property line and burned a large storage building belonging to another homeowner.
Additionally, firefighters were required to return to the scene of the blaze on Roper to quell small fires that had periodically reignited. Extremely dry conditions contributed to the ferocity of the flames.
"Firefighters had the fire under control at 1:27 pm, but were called back in service for the first time at 2:38 pm," Stith said. "They had to return numerous times. The remaining fuel and debris made the fire difficult to control."
He continued, "This had a potential to become a very dangerous fire due to the number of propane tanks and gas cans that were being stored on the property. Luckily none exploded."
The house was unoccupied when the fire erupted, Stith said, and no firefighters were injured. "It appeared the unoccupied house was also being used for storage. No one had been living there for a while," he added.
"From the onset, this incident has been investigated as a probable arson," Stith said in an interview on Monday, August 17. Apparently witness statements had pointed to the suspicious origins of the fire. Additionally, electrical power had been turned off to the property.
Stith explained that arson is typically considered a Second Degree felony except with extenuating circumstances. The charge becomes a First Degree felony if a firefighter was injured in the blaze or if the arson fire involved a church or an inhabited structure, he said.
At this time, several persons of interest are being investigated; however, no other information could be released by press time due to the ongoing inquiry.