By Joshua Winata
The Cove Herald
On Tuesday afternoon, a cloud of smoke and ash blanketed the Copperas Cove Civic Center, where residents in need were waiting to pick up packages of free food at the Annual Community-Wide Thanksgiving Basket Benefit.
A brush fire erupted on the south side of the railroad tracks along West Avenue B around noon, the second one of the day. Another brush fire was reported earlier that morning at about 9 a.m. about 300 yards east of the civic center and was quickly contained.
“I smelled smoke, and I thought, ‘What’s burning?’” said eyewitness Angela Tibbens, who was outside of the civic center in line for her meal when the second fire broke out. “About that time is when we start seeing the little flames start shooting up, and it went up in the tree.”
Families and individuals camped out by the door until the benefit started were ushered indoors a few minutes after the smoke descended across the street and into the civic center parking lot.
“We were standing outside, and we heard all this cracking, and we thought it was just dirt at first hitting us in the face, but it was the smoke,” said Cove resident Sherry Maples, who walked next door to the Copperas Cove Fire Department to report the incident.
According to fire department officials, the fires were likely started by a railroad scraper, which came down the tracks at about 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. The equipment is used to smooth the metal along rail lines but also causes friction and throws off heat.
“They were probably pitching sparks this morning, and it just smoldered as the wind picked up and took off,” CCFD Battalion Chief Steven Spink said. “That’s what we’re going to list it as. There’s really no other rhyme or reason that a fire would start back there.”
About one and a half acres of land, consisting of wild grasses and cedar trees, were damaged in the fire.
No one was injured during the incident, and witnesses reported that they were not concerned about the danger.
“I figured we were pretty close to the fire department,” Tibbens said. “If they didn’t get it, we would be in trouble.”
Contact Joshua Winata at email@example.com or call (254) 547-6481