Monday, September 13, 2010
Where There's Smoke
Around here, where there’s smoke, there’s often valuable real estate. Back in the 1990s, a number of businesses along Main Street in Fredericksburg suffered a series of small fires. These culminated in some larger fires in the attic of the then-mayor of Fredericksburg’s historic home on West Main that caused more significant damage because firefighters couldn’t safely get to it through the home’s tin roof and also because they didn’t have a high enough ladder truck at the time.
It was about this same time that I had my own close encounter with a fire started in my attic. A workman with a company owned by a close friend of my ex-husband’s was supposedly doing repair work on the attic portion of our central air conditioning unit when I began to smell smoke coming from above. I ran to the base of the ladder to our attic and yelled up to the repairman to find out what was going on. When he didn’t answer and I heard strange noises, I started up the ladder to see for myself—and caught the guy frantically extinguishing a small blaze that had started on the attic floor. Fortunately, it hadn’t had time to do much more than char the floor slightly.
I immediately demanded to know what had happened. The repairman claimed he’d been doing some welding and sparks had ignited the wooden floor, but the repair he was supposed to have been making did not involve welding and I did not even see any welding tools anywhere in the attic. Also, at the top of the ladder, I could now smell hydrocarbons of some sort, and I saw what looked like splash patterns in the burns on the floor (but I did not see any gas cans or any other sort of suspicious containers).
I asked about the status of the air conditioning repair and was told it was finished. I intended at that point to insist on this man’s leaving my house immediately, but I didn’t need to; he was clearly frightened and visibly shaking as he grabbed his things, scrambled down the ladder, and bolted for his truck.
Several days later, I received a bill for the air conditioning repairs in the mail. I paid this bill immediately, but because of this incident, I never used this air conditioning company again. (The company I changed to was the one discussed in my 6/25/09 post entitled “Heating Up In Texas”.)
Because our attic is difficult to access, we rarely go up there. Several years later when I finally went all the way up the ladder again, I was shocked to discover that someone had come up there and completely covered the floors and walls with a fresh new coat of white spray paint so that no traces of the burn marks I’d seen were now visible. (There were other substantial changes to the attic as well, and they had to have been made by persons entering our house illegally sometime when we’d been gone for an extended period—I’d have smelled the new paint otherwise, for example. Unless they were sanded away, the burn marks I saw should still be present in our attic underneath the new layer of paint.)
In 2006, the Kerrville and Comfort areas were hit with a rash of suspicious fires. I’ve documented three of these for your particular consideration here because they also involve real estate that is highly desirable for development. Two of these later had a sudden death associated with them, as shown. The store that burned down in Comfort was owned by relatives of my ex-husband’s grandmother. The restaurant that burned in Kerrville was located in an old house on one of the busiest corners in Kerrville—and right next to the local Texas Department of Public Safety (state troopers’) office.
More recently, it’s been Bandera’s turn to suffer. Several long-time businesses in the center of town were badly damaged in a suspicious fire.