A fire at the Scarborough Faire grounds late Monday night claimed the life of one of its workers, 48-year-old Will Ross.
In an interview Tuesday, Scarborough Faire spokesman Orvis Melvin said Ross was one of the venue’s site crew who also portrayed “The Pickle Man” during the Renaissance Festival staged each spring.
“He’d be funny out there and everybody would be laughing up a storm,” Melvin said of the long-time employee.
Firefighters were dispatched at about 10:30 p.m., with Emergency Services District No. 6 Fire Chief Jake Escamilla saying one of his volunteers, who lives near the facility, was the first on scene.
“She went directly there and reported lots of smoke,” Escamilla said, noting that the volunteer also saw one building already engulfed in flames, with the fire spreading. That was the structure where the victim’s body was later recovered from, he said.
“We lost the building that Will was in and lost seven other buildings along Holly Field,” Melvin said. The structures included several privately owned shops as well as one of the venue’s souvenir shops and a set of privies, he said.
Escamilla said the fire was located toward the back of the property in a heavily wooded area, saying that responding fire departments had to maneuver their vehicles down the venue’s pedestrian walkways.
“We had to use several departments’ resources to put it out,” Escamilla said, listing the Avalon, Forreston, Maypearl, Ovilla and city of Waxahachie fire departments as those providing mutual aid.
“We basically surrounded (the fire) and drowned it,” Escamilla said, describing the blaze as “just a fireball all over.”
It was reported early on a resident was unaccounted for in a head count.
“They were trying to reach him on a cell phone, but he wasn’t answering,” Escamilla said, saying Ross’ residence was the one already engulfed in flames by firefighters’ arrival. “They knew he was home; they had seen him earlier.”
Praising firefighters’ efforts in battling the blaze, sheriff’s Lt. James Saulter said a primary focus was placed on getting the fire put out on the structure where Ross had resided.
“The last anybody had talked to him was about 3 p.m., when he said he was going to the house,” Saulter said of what ended up a recovery effort. “He didn’t have a vehicle so we felt like from what they were telling us, he was in there. We were determined to find out one way or another.”
Reports indicate the fire was out by about 1 a.m., with firefighters extinguishing the remaining hot spots and clearing the scene at about 4:30 a.m.
“We just clean up and start rebuilding,” said Melvin, who also praised the firefighters’ efforts. “The property loss is so much better than it could have been from what I saw. The way that fire was raging, it’s a testament to the fire departments. We had a lot of firemen come to help us out and they made a big difference.”
Two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion. They were transported to the hospital, where they were treated and released.
The state fire marshal’s office will handle the investigation; investigators from that agency met with sheriff’s office personnel Tuesday morning at the venue.
The venue hosts two events each year: Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival (spring) and Screams (fall). Both will proceed, including this fall’s production of Screams, Melvin said, saying the Halloween-themed show is staged in Crown Meadow.
“There were some loose embers that got over there, but those were taken care of. We’re still set to open up the doors Sept. 30,” he said.
Melvin expressed his appreciation for the community’s support and said the best way people can help “is to keep coming out here and letting us entertain them. They can help us rebuild by doing that.”
Contact JoAnn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 469-517-1452.