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Insurance company sues owner of vacant lot where the Balch Springs grass fire started

Sikka Investments owns the property where the devastating July 25 blaze began.

Destroyed houses
Destroyed houses by a grass fire in Balch Spring on Aug. 10.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

By Isabella Volmert

The insurance company for three Balch Springs homeowners whose properties were damaged in a July 25 grass fire is suing the owner of the vacant lot where the fire started.

State Farm Lloyds, the insurance company for Edgar Cruz, Mario Thompson and Miguel Quinonez, filed the lawsuit Friday in Dallas County to recover the amount it paid out on their claims — at least $1 million — from Sikka Investments.

Multiple phone calls made to numbers listed for Sikka Investments were not returned Tuesday.

The three homeowners lived on Broadview and Elm Point drives in the Spring Ridge subdivision, the neighborhood adjacent to the 67-acre lot where the fire started.

Sikka Investments had a citation to appear in court over a code violation for tall grass and hired mowers to cut the grass — later described as “a heavy amount of fuel” — during the notably dry summer. The fire started, authorities said, when a mower blade sparked against a sharp object and ignited the field.

“And once ignited, there’s just a whole lot of material to burn at that point,” Balch Springs Fire Marshal Sean Davis said in August.

The fire spread quickly and damaged 27 homes, destroying nine of them. The lawsuit says the three residents’ homes were destroyed or damaged to the point they were uninhabitable.

At the time of the fire, authorities estimated total property damage exceeded $6 million.

Doug Heuvel, an attorney representing State Farm Lloyds, expected other insurers will join the lawsuit.

Sikka Investments owns five similar vacant lots across Dallas County, according to appraisal records. One of the similar properties in Irving is the site of a code violation issued in August for “grass/weeds in excess of 10 inches.”

Documents show the group also had at least one code violation — issued in early July — in Dallas for grass in excess of 12 inches on a Buckner Boulevard property.

The six properties, including the site of the Balch Springs fire, are located at the corners of major roads and all but one are adjacent to gas stations. Two properties border residential neighborhoods, similar to how the Balch Springs property borders the Spring Ridge subdivision.

Sikka Investments acquired the Balch Springs land, on the corner of Belt Line Road and Interstate 20, in May 2014, according to Dallas County appraisal records. The company sold part of the property, the current location of a Fox Fuels gas station, in September 2021 to Mountain Express Oil Co., a gas station real estate and distribution company based in Georgia.

Balch Springs issued a citation to the owners of the vacant field to appear in court following two requests to cut the grass, which had grown past code standards, authorities said at the time of the blaze. Residents have said they complained to the city multiple times about the overgrowth and height of the grass.

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