Though it is not the usual practice of the county, Clay County Commissioners voted Monday to pay Key Energy Services for two tank-truck loads of water used to fight the Dark Hollow Road fire Sept. 13.
Tim Ogle, chief of the Newport VFD, a Jack County department, requested the water trucks. Jack County often pays for the water it uses to fight fires.
Precinct 4, which has been hit hard financially by fires this year, was billed $1,364 for two tanker loads of water. Initially, a third load was also billed, but that load was used in Montague County, and the bill rescinded.
“I’m not going to vote for it to come out of my funds. And the way it looks, I’m not going to vote for it to come out of any funds,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner A.J. Peek. “I want to question this thing.”
Sept. 13 was an “exceptional” day for wildfires, pointed out Jim Humphrey, who with Dan Slagle took over for Emergency Management Coordinator Kent Neville that day. Neville was in Austin at a conference.
Two fires burned thousands of acres, both starting just miles from each other, between Bellevue and the Jack County Line. The first fire reported, believed to be arson, began in two places on Manton Road near Bellevue, and burned almost to Hwy. 81 from Bowie to Stoneburg.
The Dark Hollow Road fire was sparked in a hay field just inside of Clay County near Post Oak. At the time, all available Clay County fire fighters were fighting the Manton Road fire and Newport was called in to take command.
Global Energy and L&R Tank Trucks of Bowie also brought in water. The water was purchased from the City of Bowie.
“To me, that just the cost of doing business,” said Peek of the oil field service companies, noting that in many cases, fire fighters are also protecting oil field equipment. “Precinct 4 has had four big fires, the Studdard, the McDonald, Dark hollow and Manton Road.”
County Judge Kenneth Liggett noted that in a normal situation, private companies are not allowed to bring in water without the approval of the precinct commissioner or the judge himself. But this was no ordinary situation, having a chief from another county take command.
“The fact remains, he was helping us, and doing the best job he could,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Johnny Gee of Ogle. Gee said the county should pay the bill.
Precinct 4 also paid for $1,500 in fuel for trucks and dozers and also purchased a tank of fuel for a privately owned spotter plane.
Commissioners chose to pay the water bill from contingency funds. Peek said he would negotiate the price with Key Energy Services.