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Fire destroys garage, fireplace explodes in second incident

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith stayed busier than he would have liked over the holidays with a structure fire in Pipe Creek and a fireplace explosion in the Bandera River Ranch subdivision.
Firefighters with the Pipe Creek Volunteer Fire Department responded quickly to a call for a structure fire last Tuesday evening, Dec. 28, but were unable to save the fully involved garage. However, they kept numerous nearby buildings safe from the flames and prevented any injuries.
Bandera County Sheriff's Office Dispatch received the call at 9:06 pm Tuesday evening. The Pipe Creek VFD arrived at the scene at 561 River Trail in Pipe Creek to find a garage fully engulfed in flames. PC VFD Fire Chief Rick Martin served as incident commander with 14 Pipe Creek volunteer firefighters responding to the call. "We were at the fire station for bingo night," said Martin, "so we were able to answer the call really quickly."
Martin said the 30-foot by 50-foot wood and metal structure was filled with contents from a recent move.
According to Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith, the residents were taking advantage of the wet weather to shoot off some fireworks when a mortar malfunctioned and shot into the garage where it ignited flammable materials.
"The Pipe Creek fire department handled the whole incident very professionally," said Stith. "They protected multiple structures because of their quick and efficient response."
Stith gave a preliminary estimate of losses at $15,000 in damages to the structure, and $25,000 in damages to the contents.
"I urge everyone to use caution with fireworks, especially in close proximity to structures," said Stith.
Earlier that same day, Stith had asked Bandera County Commissioners not to lift the current countywide burn ban. "Although we have had some rainfall, conditions are predicted to return to being very dry, along with high winds," said Stith. "The brown winter grasses in the pastures now will dry up pretty quick as soon as the rain stops and the winds start up."
As of this time, Bandera County remains under a burn ban.
In a second incident, a fire occurred as a result of a gas fireplace installation in a new home in Bandera River Ranch subdivision off of Highway 16 South. The blaze was reported about 4 pm on Wednesday, Dec. 29.
The installer was running the initial start-up service on the fireplace in the single-story brick home still under construction.
According to the fire marshal's report, apparently gas had built up behind the fireplace. When the installer ignited the burner, the accumulated propane exploded. The explosion caused burns to the face and hair of the installer and some structural damage to the walls adjoining the fireplace.
Stith urged residents to use extreme caution when a gas leak is suspected. "Please notify my office at 830-460-8183 or your local gas supplier to check it out. Do not try to light the appliance," said Stith.
As are all explosions or fires related to propane in Texas, this incident has been reported to the Texas Railroad Commission.