The Mountain is Safe, Out-of-Control Brush Fires Extinguished
Though a white smoke this morning replaced the black plumes of yesterday’s out-of-control brush fires, the Canton Fire Department is still keeping its eyes on smoldering piles of debris on the property located uphill from “The Mountain” First Monday shops. Several controlled burn piles on Farm to Market 17 (FM 17) roadside, were being monitored by one individual who was clearing the property for the owner, Norma Corry, who is endeavoring to clean up the land and contribute to the beauty of the community, while keeping First Monday traffic in mind.
At 12:36 on May 9, I made a call to the Sheriff’s Department, as that part of the property is outside Canton City limits, and I asked them to drive by and check on the fires. The Northeast Texan’s office is located in the Canton Connection Center, across the street, along with Canton Christian Academy for K-12 students. A few minutes later, someone with the Canton Fire Department was seen on Corry’s property. A follow-up phone call to the Canton Fire Department revealed upon speaking with Captain Brian Horton, that the fires were part of a controlled burn.
However, we could feel the heat of the flames, from the door of our building that faces FM 17. Several of us were outside on the deck that surrounds Canton Connection Center, and we could see trees catching fire, and had the children go back inside, so they wouldn’t breathe in toxic fumes. In all, two back-to-back calls were placed to the Van Zandt Sheriff’s Department, and two calls were made to Canton Fire Department later that day. We occasionally saw trucks from the CFD drive by on FM 17 and slow down to see how the burn was going.
Capt. Horton said this afternoon that at 17:57 Canton Fire Department answered a call to the 25154 block of East Highway 64 with several units. Joining them were units from South Van Zandt County, Whitton Community, and the Canton Police Department with traffic control. There were four to five storage buildings filled with rubbish and various items such as “tools and living items.” They determined that there was no intent to do damage, and that embers got under a cluster of bamboo, which caused the controlled burn to get out of control. Since the property is outside City limits, Horton explained that the City cannot enforce City codes and ordinances. Within 20 minutes, the fire was surrounded and contained, and put out within 45 minutes of answering the call.
The Northeast Texan (TNT) posted a video yesterday evening describing the fire as being “on the back of the mountain,” which is how locals refer to the area from the bottom of the hill, where the First Monday shops are on “The Mountain,” all the way up the hill to FM 17.
In fact, Roy Pierce grew up in Canton, and his family owned a small business at the same junction on SH 64 and FM 17 many years ago before the roads were fully paved two-lane thoroughfares. Pierce said that when he was a boy, the area was called Red Hill, and later became known as Willie’s Mountain, and then, The Mountain, because of the First Monday shops on SH 64. In fact, there is a back entrance with a big red sign, to The Mountain shops from FM 17, that reads, The Mountain – Late Night Shopping. There are several lovely bed and breakfast businesses back there, which visitors are sure to enjoy! The Mountain shops are a lot of fun, and one of my favorite places to visit when First Monday shopping. That entrance is just a few hundred yards from where the fires were.
After two previous fires in recent years, shop owners are delighted that fire fighters stopped the flames from spreading downhill to the shops, zoned and known formally as “The Mountain.” Thankfully, we’ve had a fair amount of rain out here this year!
Brenda Corry Sanford spoke on behalf of her mother, who owns the property that caught fire. She explained in a Facebook message to me, what she knows of the situation at present: “My mom has been gradually trying to clean up the road frontage on Hwy 17 and Hwy 64 over the past year. It’s taking some time, but we feel like we are making progress. It has been an unattractive area for surrounding businesses and the drive up into the city limits, so we wanted to get that corrected. We had a gentleman doing some cleanup work yesterday and when I checked after I got off work, there were just a couple of small smoldering piles. To be honest, I was tickled because the land looked so much cleaner. From what I understand shortly after I left, some sparks jumped over into a bamboo field and old shed on the backside of my Mom’s property. The shed was completely full of old debris and it lit quickly. There were two larger sheds beside it and they all went up immediately. Because of all of the old debris and bamboo the smoke made it look a lot worse than it was. The fire department was called by the gentleman we had working and they were able to save my mom’s old home place. No injuries, thank God. Thank you again for your concern. Hopefully over the next week or so we can have things looking even better. We want Canton to thrive and we want to do our part.”
No one was injured in the fire, and Sanford is, “Thankful we live in a community of people who care.”