Trash burning started Ellis County grass fire that burned 600-800 acres, officials say

Chris Roark
Waxahachie Daily Light

Officials said the grass fire that burned 600-800 acres in southern Ellis County on Tuesday started from someone burning trash.

Tuesday afternoon crews from all over Ellis County were called to help contain a fire that began at Grays Creek, just east of Interstate 45 and north of Whitfill Road in Alma. Residents on social media stated the fire was moving to the north toward FM 85.

Tim Birdwell, Ellis County fire marshal, said nobody was injured in the fire, but he said anywhere from 25 to 50 homes were threatened.

“Because of the volunteer fire departments and the paid fire departments at least 25 homes were saved,” said Birdwell, adding that a shed, a pond bridge and some power poles were damaged.

Officials indicated around 4 p.m. Tuesday once the fire had been 100 percent contained that it had consumed approximately 500 acres. But Birdwell said Wednesday that estimate is between now believed to be 600 to 800 acres.

Birdwell said it appears the fire began when someone was burning trash and left the pile unattended.

“On days when the wind is above 19 mph you’re not supposed to do any burning,” Birdwell said. “That’s a rule from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. People need to use common sense. The grass was dormant, and everything was dead. People say it’s going to rain, but you still have dormant grass.”

Residents in the area described their efforts to protect their property, one resident saying on social media she doused her fence posts with water to keep them from catching on fire.

Birdwell said he is going to ask the Ellis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday to implement a burn ban for 90 days.

Birdwell recommends residents familiarize themselves with two booklets – the outdoor burning rules from TCEQ and the wildfire action plan “Ready, Set, Go!”

In general outdoor burning in Texas is prohibited, TCEQ says, but there are several exceptions. To learn more about the exceptions, conditions that must be met, etc. go to

tceq.texas.gov/downloads/publications/rg/outdoor-burning-in-texas-rg-49.pdf.

The “Ready, Set, Go!” plan details ways to prevent your structure from being susceptible to a grass fire.

Tips include clearing vegetation 100 feet from the home, cutting tree branches within 10 feet of the home, covering eaves and clearing out rain gutters.

To read more on the “Ready, Set, Go!” plan go to iafc.org/readysetgo.