Man Charged After Fire At George Bush Park

Friday's Fire Burned 30 Acres; Tuesday's Fire Scorched 1,500 Acres

Lonnie Ray Henderson

HOUSTON - A man was charged Friday after a new fire ignited at a west Houston park where 1,500 acres burned earlier this week.

The first fire at George Bush Park started near a roadway in the 16700 block of Westheimer Parkway near state Highway 6 about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday.

At 11:45 p.m. Thursday, firefighters were called to battle flames near Interstate 10 and Barker-Cypress Road that threatened nearby homes in the Green Trails subdivision and the Carrington apartments.

Fire officials said a witness saw a man on a four-wheeler leaving the area seconds after the fire started. The Houston Fire Department Arson Bureau arrested and charged Lonnie Ray Henderson, 28, with impersonating a public servant, which is a felony. No other details were immediately provided about his arrest.

Officials said thick brush and windy conditions made it difficult for crews to get into the area. They had to use chainsaws to make a path for themselves.

"This one is not as big as the one (Wednesday) or (Tuesday), but this one is in much closer proximity to homes, hotels and commercial properties," said Curtis Williams with the Houston Fire Department.

"It's extremely unsettling because, you know, I have animals that I have to get out of here and for the most part, you're going to have very little time to act quickly," said Pam Peaco, who lives at the Carrington apartments. "I did have some stuff prepared ahead, like medications and things like that."

Some homeowners said they have their bags packed and they're ready to go in case a fire threatens their home.

The fire was brought under control early Friday but continued to smolder. Approximately 27 acres burned. No evacuations were ordered.

Shortly after 8 a.m., bulldozers cut additional containment lines.

The fire was several miles north of the location of Tuesday's flames.

Firefighters said they will remain on the scene for a while because of concerns that the fire may flare back up.

A discarded cigarette is believed to be the cause of Tuesday's fire, officials said.

George Bush Park is about 7,800 acres.

HFD Safety Tips During Drought

Barbecue Safety

  • Portable barbecue pits, charcoal grills and other open-flame cooking devices outside of a building should not be operated on combustible balconies or located within 10 feet of combustible walls or roofs or other combustible materials.
  • When igniting the barbecue charcoal, use a charcoal lighter, not gasoline. Gasoline can flash violently in and around the pit causing serious injuries to anyone in the area of the flash. A fire extinguisher or charged garden hose should be handy while the fire is burning. Check the pit frequently to ensure that it is OK.
  • Hot ash and coals from barbecue pits and charcoal burners should be placed in a non-combustible container until cooled or thoroughly saturated with water, before being disposed.
  • Citizens should also be aware that there is a temporary ban on all barbeque pits in city of Houston parks.

Open Flames

  • The city of Houston Fire Code prohibits all open-burning within the Houston city limits at all times. The burn ban in unincorporated areas of Harris County also prohibits any outdoor open-burning, including the burning of: a bonfire, rubbish fire, campfire, trench fire, or other fire in an outdoor location when not contained.

Vehicles, Trailers & Tools

  • Park vehicles so that the exhaust system does not come in contact with dry grass, leaves, or weeds.
  • Adjust the safety chains on trailers to ensure they don?t drag and create sparks that can cause roadside starts.
  • Keep lawn mowers and agricultural equipment in proper working condition and avoid rocks and other materials which might cause a spark.
  • Do not weld or cut without a spotter, a water source and a shovel.
  • Notify the electric power company when dead trees or overhanging limbs endanger the electric wires. The wires may touch each other or the ground, causing sparks that start fires.

Cigarettes or Other Smoking Materials

  • Another cause of accidental fires is carelessly discarded cigarettes or other smoking materials. They can smolder for hours and should be completely doused with water before being discarded in a safe manner, rather than tossed out a window or on the ground.
  • Texas' arson law includes felony punishment for anyone whose cigarette recklessly sets fire to a building or injures anyone. Arson is a second-degree felony in Texas, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but if a person is hurt or killed or if the fire involves a church, arson is a first-degree felony, carrying possible punishment of up to life in prison.

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