The Balch Springs community will spend the coming days and months trying to pick up and move forward.
Fire Marshal Sean Davis said he hopes the future Balch Springs will include a more robust fire department, to respond in case something like this happens again in this growing community.
“It’s great to bring people to the community, to the city,” Davis said. “But along with that, an improvement in city service has to happen.”
Monday’s fire quickly overwhelmed their limited resources.
“Our minimum staff is eight. So it’s the battalion chief, and a staff captain and the other six firefighters who work with them,” Davis said.
Davis said there had been an ongoing conversation, even before yesterday, to better equip the Balch Springs Fire Department. He said the chief has been very explicit in his demands of the city.
“It’s a debate. The chief is asking for additional staff before this happens,” he said. “Additional staff, additional equipment, even as much as trying to find a place in the near future for an additional fire station so we can have faster response times.”
In addition to city resources, those affected by the fire wonder if it could have been avoided. The fire started as crews were cutting grass in an open field behind the neighborhood facing South Beltline Road. Residents said they had complained about the overgrown grass for some time.
“I’m really not happy with the way they held that ground there. Because it’s something that should have been done very regularly,” said resident Monica McNeil.
McNeil said the neighbors even organized to do something about it.
“They had been asking for weeks for this to be mowed,” she said.
Davis added that a citation was issued to remedy the overgrown grass. He explained how the process generally works.
“They start with a ‘please’ letter, which turns into a kind of ‘We don’t ask, we say’ letter,” he said.
Chief Eric Neal said Tuesday morning that several warnings had been issued to landowners.
“Code enforcement was here,” Neal said. “It’s a private area and they repeatedly warned them to cut the grass and unfortunately they were the ones who cut the grass that led to the grass fire.”
In the end, Davis said what happened was the result of a perfect storm.
“The weather, the wind, the dry temperatures, the extreme heat,” Davis said. “It all played out. Low staff, lack of equipment. It all turned into a bad disaster.”