Stafford County Again Battles Intentionally-Set Fires on Halloween

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Halloween is eerily similar every year for Stafford Fire Chief Jerry Sanders.

"I pass out candy and this (Stafford Fire Department shirt) is usually what I'm wearing," Sanders said.

The evening has become so second-nature, he has it down to a science.

"I pull one plug and it kills all the pumpkins on the front porch and the lights. Then I flip off the porch light and I head to a fire," Sanders said.

For the past six years, Sanders says he has put down the candy bowl and rushed out the door to respond to intentionally-set fires in and around the city of Stafford.

"The kids just get restless I guess," Sanders said. "Within 15 seconds they got the tire or hay bale lit and then they are gone in seconds."

He says the fires are troublesome and often stretch the small town's resources.

"It's not good when you get too many fires going. You just run out of personnel and trucks," Sanders said. "In that case, we have to call St. John which is 10 miles away. The fire can destroy a lot in those 10 minutes."

Sanders says in the past, it's been mainly small fires involving tires, hay bales, or trees. But this year there was a much more serious rash of incidents.

He says there were at least seven fires in and around Stafford, nearly all of them intentionally-set. While he suspects young pranksters are to blame, no one has been arrested.

The first call he got while handing out candy to the kids was a fire about four miles outside of town off of Old Highway 50. A pile of trees had been set on fire.

That fire was not far from where someone set fire to a pile of trees last year on Halloween, he said.

But while he was on that call, he received another one, a call he's not used to on Halloween.

"I heard the radio go off that they had some more fires in town including a house fire," Sanders said.

A vacant, two-story home on Mincer was going up in flames.

"This year was not as bad as previous years as far as the little fires but this is the first time we have had a structure fire involved in anything," Sanders said.

Thankfully, he says, the utilities were not connected and no one was living there. But he says the property owner was storing furniture and photo albums in the house. He estimates the damage at about $2000 to that personal property.

He says the fire easily could have been a lot worse.

"If it had gone in another direction there are probably four more houses it could have taken," Sanders said.

Mark McMillan lives just across the street and caught the fire on video.

"At first I thought it was one of my buildings," McMillan said. "I don't understand it. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me and I don't like it all."

What it does do is make him and a lot of people around town very angry.

"I hope they get caught and learn a lesson from this before someone gets hurt or gets killed," McMillan said.

A sleep-deprived Sanders, still in the shirt he wore Halloween night, said Thursday he's also fed up.

"It needs to come to a stop," Sanders said. "We can't have this anymore."

If you have any information you are asked to call the Stafford Police Department at 620-234-5161
Editor's Note: Video shown in the video story is courtesy of the Hays Post and Mark McMillan.

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