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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - November 30, 2004, New Braunfels, Texas J*****#*####*# UT in SMIMfESf    momi a I. ,7? [* 79903 SPORTS TOUGH CHOICE Dallas Cowboys must choose between playing for the playoffs or the future of the franchise. Page 5A TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 30,2004 ald-Zeitung FORUM OBJECTIONS CISD trustee Bill Swint takes exception to "misguided" quotes on school bond refinancing. Page 4A Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852. Vol. 154, No. 13 12 pages, 2 sections 8    56825    00001 High Low 50 34 I Details 1B I TV GRIDS DEAR ABBY 48 CLASSIFIEDS 48 COMICS 2B CROSSWORD 2B FORUM 4A OBITUARIES 3A SPORTS SA 48 City balks at language in ambulance contract Elderly couple suffers severe burns during explosion By Ron Maloney Staff Writer Local, state and federal investigators worked Monday to confirm whether the explosion that destroyed a Country Hills home and critically injured its occupants was caused by propane gas. New Braunfels fire officials said Britton Ware lr. and his wife, Susie, suffered second- and third-degree burns Sunday in the 6 p.m. explosion, which shattered windows around the neighborhood and sent pieces of their brick home flying as far as the street. Monday afternoon, officials at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio said Britton Ware was in “critical” condition. His wife was in “critical but stable” condition. At the request of family members, no other information was made available. A family member did say she wanted to express gratitude to the neighbors who helped the Wares from the shattered home in the wake of die explosion. "We’d appreciate any prayers,” she said. The explosion came just two days after the Wares, who relocated here from Georgia to be closer to family, moved into the home. Neighbor Jeff Smith heard the explosion and ran to the Ware house, two doors down from his, and trained a hose on the garage as other neighbors helped get the Wares out of the house. “It was quick,” Smith said. “It was big. It sounded like a bomb. It knocked down pictures in our house.” Other neighbors reported shattered windows in their homes. There were shards of glass in the street and bricks strewn about the front yard, dozens of feet from the home. “From the front, it looked like a normal house,” Smith said. “The entire back of the house — the roof and everything — was gone.” New Braunfels Fire Chief John I lerber said New Braunfels, Canyon [.ake and San Marcos firefighters were dispatched to the scene oft I lunter Road at 5:56 p.m. after neighbors reported hearing an DAVID INGRAM/Herald-Zeitung Firefighters hose down the blackened remains of the garage of a house destroyed Sunday night by an explosion. Comal County Fire Marshal Lin Manford called the destruction some of the worst he has seen in his career. By Scott Mahon Staff Writer A coalition of BMS providers, including the New Braunfels Fire Department, is still providing services to rural areas in Guadalupe County, but NBFD Fire Chief John I lerber hasn't signed a new contract. Herber said Monday he will meet with Schertz officials Thursday to try to iron out their differences. “There’s some verbiage in the contract I don’t agree with,” he said. Since 2001, Schertz EMS has provided services to Guadalupe County’s unincorporated areas through a coalition including Seguin, Hays County and the New Braunfels Fire Department. The current three-year contract with Schertz EMS expired Sept. 30. See CONTRACT, Page 2A the Wares, who he refused to identify due to medical confidentiality laws, suffered second- and third-degree burns to nearly 50 percent of their bodies. “We believe they were trying to light either the fireplace or the water heater that’s in the garage," Gonzales said. “That could have set off the explosion.” Comal County Fire Marshal Un Manford said Monday afternoon the explosion was being investigated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, his office, the New Braunfels Fire Marshal, the Texas Fire Marshal and the Texas Railroad Commission. The railroad commission, Manford said, would take the lead role in the investigation because it is the agency that regulates purveyors of propane gas. Manford referred inquiries to the Texas Railroad Commission. “Sam Dubberly of the railroad commission in Hondo is investigating, and we’re assisting him,” Manford said. Manford said he’d never seen anything like the damaged Ware house in his years as a Firefighter or fire marshal. “In rural Comal County, we don’t have many explosions,” Manford said. “This is complete devastation. I’m surprised the two people inside survived the initial impact. In the back, its completely down to the foundation. There are no walls in back." Fearing lawsuits, city seeks AG’s opinion on FGI requests Courtesy photo Susie and Britton Ware Jr. moved into the Country Hills home on Thanksgiving Day. explosion at the residence, which was located in die 1300 block of Timberwood Trail, just off the intersection of Hoffman Lane and I lunter Road. The back had been blown out of the home and much of it had collapsed in the explosion. “There is a large propane tank in the backyard,” Herber said. “Upon arrival, firefighters secured that." T he tank didn't explode, he said. “Area residents said they thought they smelled propane in the neighborhood. It was a massive explosion to do the damage it did,” I lerber said. Battalion Chief Frailly Gonzales said By Ron Maloney Staff Writer Citing the possibility of litigation in the firings of 12 street department employees, New Braunfels has refused to turn over tapes and information pertaining to the terminations. T he information, which includes copies of tapes of interviews with the subsequently fired employees or tapes of any interviews with any other employees made in the investigation, was requested earlier this month by the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung under Chapter 552 of the Texas Open Records Act. In the wake of the firing of street department foreman Mike Massey this past May, former Assistant City Manager Don Ferguson and City Engineer Mike Short opened an investigation into allegations Massey raised against fellow supervisors and street department employees. Those included misappropriation of city property and taking items from homes the city purchased in a federal buyout program after the 2002 flood. In August and September, Short fired 12 employees. See CITY, Page 2A Santiago 'Jimmy' Lagunas has asked the AG to block the release of his taped interview.Ex-worker wants name kept out of the press A former New Braunfels city employee has asked Attorney General Greg Abbot to block release of a taped interview he had with his boss before he was fired in September. Former city sign technician Santiago “Jimmy” Lagunas, fired Sept. 20, made the request in a Nov. 23 letter to the Open Records Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The letter was also sent to City Attorney Charles Zech and to the Ilerald-Zeitung by certified mail. Under the Section 552.305 of the Texas Open Records Act, which pertains to information in the custody of government agencies pertaining to a third party, the party, in this See LAGUNAS, Page 2A Fast-flowing high waters of Comal River damage tube chute, Landa Park pool By Scott Mahon Staff Writer City officials have added the tube chute on the Comal River and the spring-fed pool at Landa Park to the list of structures damaged during last week’s rainstorm. The historic Gruene Bridge, which spans the Guadalupe River, also was damaged. Officials won’t be able to assess those damages until the water level recedes. And that could be days, or weeks, away depending upon the weather. Parks and Recreation Director Stacey Ixiird said a huge chunk of concrete near the tube chute was washed away “There was a lifeguard stand on the concrete that was washed away, but die damage didn’t compromise die integrity of the tube chute,” she said. Laird said the spring-fed pool at Landa Park also suffered some damage. “We lost IOO feet of a rock retaining wall, and the bottom of die pool is frill of sediment,” she said. City Manager Chuck Pinto said the Gruene Bridge will remain closed until engineers can check out the damage. “I don’t know how extensive the damage is, but a huge block of concrete was washed away during die flood,” he said. “We’ll have to wait until the river level is lower to assess any other damage to the bridge.” Plans to replace the bridge have been in die works since 1998 when TxDOT ranked the bridge as a pri- See HIGH WATER, Page 3A HOUSE LEVELED BY BLAST MANDY REARY/Herald-Zeitung Branches from trees litter the Comal River at the tube chute. City officials said Monday that a huge chunk of concrete near the tube chute was washed away during last week's flood, but they cannot assess the damage until the water level recedes. ;