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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Man burned in explosion at ranch house

A ranch hand was severely burned Thursday night, after a propane leak caused the house he and his wife were staying in west of Toyah to explode.

The explosion occurred shortly after 6 p.m. on Thursday at a house on the Brad Bennett (Dry) Ranch, located off County Road 225 about 12 miles west of Toyah and was caused by a leaking propane tank according to Town of Pecos City Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire, who investigated the accident Thursday and Friday before going to Lubbock to interview the couple involved.

Brookshire identified the man as Randy Lindsey, though a spokesperson at University Medical Center in Lubbock said the man being treated in the hospital’s burn unit was identified as William Lindsey. According to the spokesperson, Lindsey was listed in serious condition as of noon on Monday.

Brookshire said the leak occurred in a closed-in porch area on one side of the building, and that Lindsey’s wife, Denise, told him that the blast occurred as her husband was walking into the home, which allowed the leaked propane to come in contact with a heater just inside the porch’s door.

“They had a propane leak, and the leak was in the closed-in porch,” Brookshire said. “There was a piece of copper tubing that was leaking propane into the porch.”

“At the time he opened the door there was an infra-red heater in the room next to it,” he said. “His wife said he could smell the propane and started to come back out when it blew up.”

The force of the explosion blew the porch wall outward, and left Lindsey with severe burns on his body. “I think he went through the window of the porch. That’s how he got out,” Brookshire said.

Toyah volunteer firemen was called to the side, along with fire and EMS personnel from Pecos. “We got a call at 6:15 p.m., but by the time we got to Toyah the sheriff’s office went ahead and cancelled it, because the Toyah fire department was handling it,” said Brookshire, who added the ambulance also wasn’t used on the call.

“I went out there, but she already had brought him into the hospital,” said Reeves County sheriff’s deputy Damon Compton, who investigated the explosion before Brookshire arrived on the scene. “She brought him in and I don’t blame her, because it (burned skin) was falling off his arms.”

Once at Reeves County Hospital, Lindsey was treated before being flown by air ambulance to University Medical Center in Lubbock, which has the nearest critical care burn unit to the Pecos area.

Brookshire said the tube may have accidentally been kicked loose, causing the leak, and that a cover was not placed over the valve lever leading to the porch. The cause of the explosion and fire remain under investigation, he said Monday morning.

The explosion and fire at the ranch house was one of a number of fires blamed on faulty heaters or other items connected with the colder weather. According to the American Red Cross of Southwest Texas, there were 15 fires in the area in November, one in Pecos and 13 in the Midland-Odessa area.

Some of the precautions listed by the agency for winter fire safety involve making sure Christmas trees and holiday decorations are being used safely. Others include making sure that candles are not left burning, that chimney and flues are inspected by a professional and kept clean and that only wood is burned and no decorations are kept near a burning fireplace.

Other safety measures include not overloading electrical outlets; keeping Christmas trees away from heat and watered, to avoid having them dry out before the holiday season ends; using flame-retardant decorations, and keeping children away from candles, matches and lighters.

The Red Cross is also seeking donations to help the agency with its emergency efforts for fire victims. Donations can be sent to the chapter’s office , at 120 E. Second St., Odessa, Tx., 79761 or to P.O. Box 60310, Midland, Tx., 79711.

Late action gets Christmas lights in place

The annual Pecos Christmas Parade went off as scheduled on Friday night, while the Christmas lights at the Reeves County Courthouse went on a little bit earlier than usual, and the lights along South Cedar Street a little bit later than scheduled.

Local residents watch the parade make its mile-long trip from Pecos High School to the courthouse Friday evening, after which the winning floats from this year’s event were announced. But unlike recent years, there was no major lighting ceremony for the courthouse, with the lights being switched on as the first of the parade’s floats arrived at Fourth and Oak streets.

“If it weren’t for the State of Arizona prisoners, we wouldn’t have had any lights this year,” said Pecos Chamber of Commerce President Linda Gholson. She said county emergency management coordinator Ricky Herrera helped get the Arizona inmates from Reeves County Detention Center III to help string the lights around the courthouse just in time for Friday’s event.

Those in the parade and watching at the end were given free refreshments outside the courthouse before the winners were announced. The Chamber’s Women’s Division won first place for their float, which was based on this year’s “Rodeo Christmas “ theme. Second place went to A.B. Automotive, while the Reeves County Sheriff’s Department took third place with their float.

Before Friday’s event, an even larger group gathered on Thursday for the Pecos Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Maxey Park.

Trey Miller of TransPecos Banks addressed the crowd prior to the Thursday night’s lighting event, while students from Austin Elementary performed for those in attendance. The Christmas tree lighting is sponsored by the Pecos Rotary Club. The lighting of the tree on the northeast side of the park has been expanded in each of the past four years to include more decorations along the fence and trees surrounding the park’s former swimming pool site.

Meanwhile, the last of the Christmas lights were late being put up on South Eddy Street on Monday, after lights were placed on poles along South Cedar Street this past Friday. City Manager Joseph Torres said crews were out with the bucket truck earlier last week putting the lights up along West Third Street, but ran into problems when they tried to do the same thing on Cedar Street.

“The voltage is different on different poles. Some of them have 240 (volts) and some have 120,” Torres said.

City worker Conrad Saldana said some of the lights wired for 120 volts blew out when they were plugged into the 240-volt sockets, which required getting new bulbs that could handle the higher voltage.

Torres said after all the lights are set up on Third and Cedar streets, the remaining lights would be put in place on South Eddy Street.

PEDC board studies proposed by-law changes

Pecos Economic Development Corp. board members were given copies of the corporation’s revised by-laws to look over last Wednesday during the board’s meeting in Pecos, before any final vote on approving the changes to the rules.

Board members also met in executive session to go over the resumes of candidates for the position of president, formerly held by Gari Ward. Interim Chairman Joe Keese said they planned to look at 8-9 resumes to pair that group down to their list of finalists to interview.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first for new board members Jimmy Dutchover and Leo Hung, who were appointed to the board by Town of Pecos City Council during meetings last month. Interim PEDC President Mike Burkholder said the by-law changes also will have to be approved by the council.

“These changes were proposed by former board member John Grant, but there are also some other changes I put in that I felt were necessary,” Burkholder told the board. Some of the changes involved giving more direct oversight of PEDC actions to the city council and city manager, while a mandatory change was made to limit board members to two consecutive three-year terms. That change was needed to get the PEDC into compliance with state law on economic development corporations, which allows board members to serve only six consecutive years.

Other changes involved assuring the board hold at least four meetings per year to update its overall economic development plan. Current rules require only two meeting per year. Another by-law revision allows the board to meet using a conference call, if not enough members can be found in Pecos for a quorum.

“We will call a meeting, maybe before the year’s end, to discuss these changes,” Keese said, while board member Angelica Valenzuela said approval of the by-law changes should be done before the board makes a final decision on a new president.

The board also was given copies of the PEDC’s current financial statement, which showed assets of $1.73 million, most of that from ownership of the former Smithers Tire Testing Center, while the planned 2004-05 budget showed a $463 net income deficit and a $21,925 overall deficit in the budget.

“Our budget projects going in the hole a little bit this year, but that pertains to business recruitment and business retention,” Burkholder said. “Part of that has to do with the track.”

PEDC is currently in talks with both DaimlerChrysler and Texas A&M University about refurbishing and reopening the test track, which was closed in 2000 by Smithers, which then gave the facility to the Pecos Economic Development Corp.

Burkholder also said a deficit in the salary and benefit portion of the budget was due to the transition of the PEDC presidency from former president Gari Ward, who resigned at the end of October, through the current interim president and to the new full-time employee to be selected by the board.

“As we get further into the year, the budget will spread out,” Burkholder said. Keese said no names would be released on those submitting their resumes for the PEDC president’s position.

Owners sought for stolen items found in house

Pecos Police are asking local residents who may have lost items in recent burglaries to come down to the Criminal Justice Center, where they currently are keeping a number of items recovered in a raid on an east side home on Dec. 1.

Police investigator Kelly Davis said police searched the home, located in the 300 block of East 14th Street, last Wednesday, and recovered the stolen items, which included a bicycle, a lawn more, several tool boxes, several rotary saws, several stereo units, a jewelry box and several sets of wrenches, including one unopened package.

“We’re still trying to find the owners of some of this stuff,” Davis said last week. Investigator Olga Lopez said this morning that the investigation is continuing, and that while the items were recovered, no arrests have been made so far in connection with the incident.

Ex-Pecosite Gunn honored for WWII service

A former Pecos resident who served in the U.S. Army during World War II was honored recently in El Paso for his courageous efforts for his country as a bomber pilot during a 14-month period in Europe.

Joe G. Gunn, formerly of Pecos, was selected as one of the Veteran honorees for 2004 by the Air Defense Artillery Association of Fort Bliss. He was honored on Nov. 4, at the Fort Bliss Museum and Study Center in El Paso, at a Reception and Dinner Gala.

Gunn was one of the two World War II veterans honored at the El Paso military base. Two soldiers each from the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom also were honored, and. there was also an honoree that served during three different conflicts.

Gunn entered the Army in March of 1943, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps through the Aviation Cadet Program, and that same year was assigned to the 388th Bombardment Group in England.

He was a pilot of a B-17 Heavy Bomber, and after completing a tour of 25 missions over enemy occupied France, Germany, Norway and Poland, he opted to stay on for another tour because his brother, also a B-17 pilot, was in a German Prisoner of War camp.

Altogether, Gunn flew a total of 45 heavy bombardment missions between Sept. 26, 1943, and Nov. 9, 1944, and accomplished over 332 hours of actual combat time. On 24 of these sorties he led the Group and Wing. Although he and his crew faced the perils of weather, heavy flak and enemy interceptor attacks, and often returned with wounded crewmen and severe aircraft damage, he never lost an airplane or a man.

In one instance, broken control cables were sliced together in flight with safety wires from the bomb racks. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Air Medal with 6 Oak Leaf Clusters.

Following separation from the Army in January 1946, he returned home to Pecos as owner-operator of a welding business, grocery store and trailer park.

Many family members and friends attended the ceremony in El Paso.

These included: Roy Lindsay, Hazel and Helen Lindsay, Una Jean Vickers and daughter, Penny, Mary Lee Driskell, Sonny Lindsay, Jeff Lindsay and Connie, Kathy Paschal, Ellen Friar, Kitty Gunn, Faye and Kenneth Johnson, Lorraine Johnson and Father Frank Smith.

Conservation district, USDA set Friday program

The Upper Pecos Soil and Water Conservation District and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service invites the public and any agencies with interest to participate in a Program Development Group meeting for Reeves and Loving Counties to be held next Friday at the Community Center in Pecos.

This meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m., Dec. 10. The purpose of this meeting is to request participation and invite comments from local farmers and ranchers, local agencies, organizations, businesses, and individuals that have an interest in natural resource conditions and needs.

The information from the Program Development Group Meeting will help the Local Work Group, led by Greg Huber, District Conservationist, to address county based funding for the FY2005 Environmental Quality Incentives Programs (EQIP). The LWG will make recommendations on resource concerns to be addressed, eligible practices, cost share rates, and ranking for county based funding.

One of the guiding principles of the 2002 USDA Farm Bill is that conservation programs are locally led. Through stake holder meetings the public is given an opportunity to help local conservation leaders set program priorities.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was established in the 1996 Farm Bill to provide a single, voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers to address significant natural resource concerns. Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), EQIP was reauthorized in the 2003 Farm Bill and awards cost share assistance to projects which provide significant environmental benefit. For more information, call the USDA Service Center office in Pecos at 432-445-3196 ext. 3.

Service center locations and program information can be found on the Texas NRCS website at .

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