02/09/17 5:00pm

Grass fire near Guy, TX

Yesterday’s wind-exacerbated grass fire (pictured above) near Wolfgang and Barek roads near Guy, TX, was put out as of late last night, per the Needville Fire Department’s social media team’s recounting of events. The late-night snuff-out wrapped up around 10:30 and reportedly took crews from Needville, Damon, Richmond, Fairchild, Rosharon and the U.S. Forest Service about 6 hours. The fire occurred about 10 miles west of Brazos Bend State Park, itself scheduled to be partially set ablaze on purpose this morning.

The Needville department (which last August had to petition Nintendo to remove its building from the area’s list of Poké-stops) snapped these shots of last night’s blaze:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Guy on Fire
12/08/16 12:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FURTHER READING INTO YOUR HOUSTON FLOOD AND FIRE CHANCES Jan 2017 FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone classification changes“Every home is susceptible to flooding. There are not ANY non-flood areas. There are only homes that are more likely to flood and homes that are less likely to flood. The likelihood is expressed, on flood maps, by the single-year probability of being flooded (with some other factors). This does not properly describe the likelihood of being flooded during the course of a longer time period — of, say, a 30-year mortgage. Homes eligible for NFIP preferred flood rates can have up to just less than a 1 percent chance of flooding annually. These ‘preferred areas’ are what the public thinks of, euphemistically, as non-flood areas. Assuming a .009 probability (just less than 1 percent), a home has a 20 percent chance of flooding, at least once, over the course of a 30-year mortgage (look up binomial probability). An alternative way to think about it is that 1 in 5 homes, in preferred flood zones, will flood over the course of a 30-year mortgage. [In that case,] you are actually more likely to experience a flood than a house fire in a ‘preferred flood area.'” [Jardinero1, commenting on Where Houston Floods Outside the Flood ZonesImage of recent flood map revisions: FEMA RiskMap6

11/21/16 10:30am

Burned Fuzzy's Tacos, 138 W. Gray St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

That warm glow early Sunday morning on the edge of Fourth Ward turned out to be a major fire at the eastern W. Gray outpost of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. The blaze is now under investigation, with an eye for possible arson — a manager at across-the-street Oporto Fooding House and Wine told KHOU that security cameras caught sight of a car parked outside the closed shop just before the start of the fire, somewhere around 5 AM. The upstate taco chain opened the freshly roasted branch in January in the 1940’s house formerly housing bar and barbecue joint Hefley’s (a little less than 2 miles down the street from the Fuzzy’s now lurking in the back of the River Oaks Shopping Center).

Standing around in the background of the west-facing shot above: the Dolce Living apartment complex under construction on the north side of W. Gray on either side of Bailey St. A few other angles captured yesterday by a reader on the scene show the newly reconfigured profile of the taco shop’s roof:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Soft Tacos Overdone
11/17/16 11:30am

Smoke from Holmes Recycling Plant Fire

The fire that started late yesterday afternoon at the Holmes Road Recycling Center (just west of 288 south of 610) is still on the Houston Fire Department’s list of active incidents at the moment, after about 19 hours.  KHOU reports that the firefighting has been complicated by the need to cool off the heat-retaining piles of burning scrap metal on the scene, as well as a lack of water supply in the industrial patchwork around Pierce Junction. Hazmat crews reportedly say there’s no out-of-the-ordinary chemical concerns related to the smoke this time, though HFD captain Ruy Lozana did note to KHOU last night that the smoke’s strong smell and darker color is probably from leftover fluids in crushed cars catching fire.

Wind coming primarily from the south and southeast pushed smoke and haze from the fire across 610 all the way to the Texas Medical Center, some 3 miles north. Nearby Rice University sent out an alert around 4:45 warning folks with respiratory issues to stay indoors for a bit — below is a view (from several hours after that warning) of the haze from the Rice campus parking lot on Greenbriar, east of the stadium:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Blowing In the Wind
10/11/16 3:45pm

Memorial Conoco Car Care, 13202 Memorial Dr., Wilchester, Houston, 77079

The Memorial Conoco Car Care station at Memorial and Wycliffe drives is now fully back in the swing of things following the shootout and subsequent fire at the station over Memorial Day weekend, a reader notes. The station reopened its garage for repair and maintenance services within about a week of the May incident, during which police and a SWAT team faced off with a gunman who had begun to unload an AR-15 on passers by. The shooting spree resulted in 2 deaths (including the gunman), 6 injuries (including 2 officers and an armed guy mistaken for another gunman), and the gasoline fire that burned down the fuel pumps and canopy; the reader reports that the station is back to dispensing gasoline as of last week. That’s a new peaked canopy visible in the background over the sign shown above — here’s what the old one looked like:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Tanks Full on Wilchester
09/09/16 2:45pm

THE CASE OF THE SPECULATIVE RUBE GOLDBERG-STYLE LONG DISTANCE HOME ARSON ATTEMPT Meanwhile, in Kerikeri: Gag orders surrounding a set of insurance fraud and blackmail investigations have recently expired, bringing to light details of New Zealand investigators’ suspicions that British expat Chris Robinson may have burned his own house down while out of town in 2013. Investigators of the fire, which destroyed Robinson’s multi-million-dollar home and Mercedes, found burn marks suggesting a flame accelerant, as well as records of a remote login to a home computer on the night of the fire. Traces of the software program used to access the home machine were found on Robinson’s travel laptop, though he deleted the program the morning after the blaze. The investigators eventually presented a proof of concept video in court demonstrating one theoretically possible method of starting a fire remotely: the investigators cued a printer to print, which pulled down a sheet of paper which was taped to a string, pulling a switch that caused a small heating element to set some matches on fire (enough to ignite the accelerant that appeared to have been splashed around the house). The case fell apart because investigators didn’t produce evidence of a sent print command; though the insurance company still won’t pay out for the house, Robinson was acquitted. He did, however, lose an associated court case over an attempt to blackmail the insurance company; during sentencing, the judge took into consideration a previous UK conviction for posing as an Irish priest to solicit-slash-extort donations to a nonexistent charity. [Stuff via The Independent]

08/24/16 10:30am

La Tapatia, 1749 Richmond Ave., Montrose, Houston, 77098 La Tapatia, 1749 Richmond Ave., Montrose, Houston, 77098

The Richmond Ave branch of La Tapatia at the corner of Woodhead St. is back in operation this week after the late summer toasting of its 1969 building, a few readers report. Up top is a shot of the July 22 response from the Houston Fire Department (whose Station 16 is located a convenient half-block away across Richmond at the corner with Dunlavy St.). That’s Fairmont Museum District looking on worriedly from the background; the poop-scrutinizing Richwood Place apartment complex’s older half would have had a clear view of the action from the western turret. 

Photos: Marcie Newton (top), James Glassman (sign)

Where There’s Queso, There Was Fire
07/07/16 5:30pm

Spring Branch tributary after Laverne St. Fire

A Houston Chronicle attempt to get more info about the surprise chemical warehouse fire that turned Spring Branch Creek blood red earlier this year has been denied by the city, writes Matt Dempsey this week. The city has reportedly appealed to the state attorney general’s office to block the records request, as well as the paper’s broader request for “the name and address of every facility that files a hazardous material inventory form.”

The early May fire spread from a residence on Laverne St., igniting still-unquantified amounts of still-unnamed chemicals stored at the Custom Packaging & Filling warehouse behind it — a business that didn’t show up on the list of storage facilities the Chronicle was able to compile from local emergency planning groups, after the city and state blocked a previous request for similar info last year. The blaze left some firefighters with chemical burns and respiratory issues, and left stretches of nearby waterways decorated with festive biohazard signs and oil booms as the EPA did what they could about the mixture of pesticides and whatever else was killing the fish that drained from the site.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Knowing Your Neighbors
06/24/16 11:15am

Avenue Grill, 1017 Houston Ave., First Ward, Houston, 77007

Avenue Grill, 1017 Houston Ave., First Ward, Houston, 77007 The holdup on Houston Ave. this morning, reports a reader stuck in the resulting traffic, is the aftermath of a minor fire at the Avenue Grill on the corner with Center St. The 1940s structure (which the restaurant’s operations purportedly moved into in 1962 after 12 years of business across the street) appears unharmed by the flames, which HPD tells Dale Lezon started in the building’s electric sign. The restaurant’s property went stealthily onto the market back in August of 2014 before it was found out the following March; county records don’t appear to show a change of hands since then.

Photos of fire response at Avenue Grill at 1017 Houston Ave.: Swamplot inbox

What’s Cooking in First Ward
05/16/16 12:30pm

Renderings of townhomes at 815 W. 24th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Above is a rendered
view of the Skyline on 24th townhomes at 815 and 819 W. 24th St., a couple of which burned down on Friday evening after a nearby dumpster fire reportedly spread. The Skyline site backs up directly to part of the Shady Acres location of C&D Scrap Metal Recyclers, which last month announced plans to close its Heights branch on May 12th; C&D owner and $2-bill enthusiast Dennis Laviage pointed out to KPRC that the fire was hot enough to melt the steel frames of the townhomes, and that the incident could have been way worse if some of the diesel stored on the C&D property had gotten involved in the action.

Builder La Casa International‘s in-progress pre-fire plans for the 2 lots included 8 units; a rendering of the complex’s driveway viewed from W. 24th shows stone pavers partitioned off by strips of fake grass:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Smoke over the Skyline
05/10/16 5:15pm

Biohazard signs in Spring Branch at Westview and Moritz drives

Biohazard signs in Spring Branch at Westview and Moritz drives

The latest addition to the growing collection of signage at the Westview Dr. crossing of Spring Branch: a shiny new stick-in-your-yard-style biohazard warning sign, one of a number that popped up over the weekend along stretches of the creek that got the full vermillion treatment after last week’s chemical-fueled warehouse fire about a mile upstream. The newcomer joins the inveterate kiddo-crossing and school-zone signs tipping off drivers to the proximity of both Moritz Pech Family Park and Valley Oaks Elementary School, along with a Keep Spring Branch Clean & Green! anti-litter placard and a vintage No Dumping $200 Fine.

Other indicators of last week’s spill include the multi-colored booms still strung across the waterway (shown here looking south):

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Trickling Through the Memorial Villages
05/06/16 3:30pm

Spring Branch tributary after Laverne St. Fire

The ditches ran red in the Spring Branch area yesterday as the billowing 4-alarm fire near Laverne St. at Spring Branch Dr. triggered evacuations and shelter-in-place orders across the surrounding areas. The blaze reportedly started in a home-slash-auto-shop on Laverne and spread next door to the A-1 Custom Packaging warehouse (which transfers large quantities of various industrial liquids into smaller bottles for distribution). Some of those stored chemicals (including the bright red petroleum additive visible in the shot above) made their way into drainage ditches and culverts flowing into Spring Branch itself.

The red additive is non-water-soluble and has been getting pushed around by contract clean-up crews downstream to stop the spread. But contractors cannot, the city says, catch the pesticide that also made its way into the same drainage channels, as it dissolves in water. It’s still unclear how much of the 500 gallons or so thought to have been stored at the site made it all the way into Spring Branch (which flows into Buffalo Bayou south of I-10), but some water quality test results are due back later today.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

River Running Red
05/05/16 11:45am

Smoke Plume at 1700 Laverne from Texas Medical Center

Update, 12:30 pm: Firefighters are reportedly being warned to watch out for live ammo; also, here’s some video of one of this morning’s explosions.

Update, May 6: The chemicals released by yesterday’s fire turned Spring Branch Creek blood red — photo and more info here.

Shelter in Place Area, 5/5/2016The fire department posted a long-distance shot this morning of the A1 Custom Packaging warehouse, currently on fire near the intersection of Laverne St. and Spring Branch Dr. north of Longpoint Dr. The 4-alarm blaze (shown above from nearly 9 miles away looking out over 59 across Upper Kirby) is about a quarter mile from Spring Branch Elementary School, which KPRC reports is being evacuated. Roughly 500 students and teachers are being bussed to the Coleman Community Coliseum about 5 miles west-by-southwest, at 1050 Dairy Ashford Rd.

Noting the release of hazardous chemicals, the city’s emergency notification system recommends that anyone not evacuating the square formed by Blalock Rd., Bingle Rd., Westview Dr., and Hammerly Blvd. (shaded in red on the map above) should close their windows, turn off the AC and ventilation systems, and maybe have a go at sealing up cracks with duct tape and plastic sheeting.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Smoke Signals from Laverne St.
04/28/16 10:15am

3606 Bissonnet St., Greenway/Upper Kirby, Houston, 77005

Construction fencing is already up around the Cleburne Cafeteria, which burned down for the second time at 3606 Bissonnet St. earlier this week. The 75-year-old cafeteria business was bought by Nick and Pat Mickelis in 1952 at its original location on Cleburne and Fannin streets (which was recently occupied by DiverseWorks for a brief pre-MATCH stint, and currently houses the Zoya Tommy art gallery). The cafeteria moved to the Bissonnet spot in 1969; shortly after Nick Mickelis’s death in 1989, the building burned down for the first time.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Restaurant Re-Reconstruction