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Texas Wildfire Chief: "We Are Making Successes"

Fire bosses say more humid weather will help them get a handle on blazes that have scorched over 1.4 million acres across Texas.
Photo by Official U.S. Air Force
Fire bosses say more humid weather will help them get a handle on blazes that have scorched over 1.4 million acres across Texas.

Media will receive a tour of wildfire scorched zones in the Possum Kingdom Lake area this afternoon, so we can expect to get a closer glimpse of the devastation this evening. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that damper weather has helped prevent the wildfires from spreading more aggressively.

[O]vernight moisture, higher humidity and cooler temperatures temporarily lowered the danger of the fires further spreading, officials said. Most residents were still not being allowed into burned areas, however, because the moisture was expected to end this afternoon and conditions may worsen.

Texas Forest Service's fire chief operations chief, Mark Stanford, told the Christian Science Monitor that they are making a dent in the battle against almost two dozen large blazes.

"We're responding to 22 fires, major significant fires, that are burning over a million acres," Mark Stanford, fire operations chief of the Texas Forest Service, told the Monitor. "It's very fluid. We'll contain some and we'll get new ones. A handful of them are problematic, although we are making successes on them."

Meanwhile, a second firefighter died from injuries suffered while combating the blazes.  49-year-old Elias Jaquez passed away while being treated for burns he suffered 11 days ago, CNN reports.

"We're a very small, tight-knit community. Everybody knew Elias, knew his family," [Cactus City Manager Steve] Schmidt-Witcher said. "It's having a definite impact."

Meanwhile, the impact of the drought is still being felt in Central Texas. The Lower Colorado River Authority says the Lake Travis is more than 11 feet below the average levels for April. The Austin American-Statesman reports that over the last six months, the flow of water from creeks and streams into the Colorado River is worse than any similar period during the worst drought on record.

"These numbers are startling," said Mark Jordan, the LCRA's manager of river management services. April to date has 6 percent of its average in-flow.

Here's the latest report wildfires report, issued this morning by the Texas Forest Service.

Recent response: ·         Yesterday (Wednesday, April 20), Texas Forest Service responded to four new fires for 1,005 acres, including a 1,000-acre fire in Deaf Smith County. ·         The following fires have been contained: CR 4600 (Tyler Co., 130 acres), Encino (Tom Green Co., 12,659 acres), Hickman (Midland Co., 16,500 acres), Frying Pan Ranch (Andrews Co., 80,907 acres), Cannon (Pecos Co., 9,248 acres), DRH (Pecos Co., 26,284 acres), Little Smokey (Pecos Co., 27,895 acres), and Yates Field (Pecos Co., 300 acres). ·         204 of the 254 Texas counties are reporting burn bans (view map).     New large fires from Wednesday: ADRIAN, Deaf Smith. 1000 acres, 100 percent contained. The fire is 7 miles south of Adrian. An air attack platform responded to this fire.   Uncontained fires from previous days: PK COMPLEX, Stephens and Palo Pinto Counties. 147,065 acres total. PK West Fire is 89,715 acres, unknown containment. PK East Fire is 10,996 acres, 25 percent contained. Hohertz Fire is 40,575 acres, unknown containment. Jackson Ranch Fire is 6,687 acres, 50 percent contained. These fires are burning near Possum Kingdom Lake, Caddo, Strawn, and Bunger which all have had evacuations.  600-plus homes are threatened. PK subdivisions: Sportsman World 56 homes destroyed, Gaines Bend 37 homes destroyed, Hog Bend 24 homes destroyed; additional assessments of Hell’s Gate, Peninsula and Cliff area continue. Texas Forest Service task forces and Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) strike teams are actively fighting these fires.  Heavy helicopters, heavy airtankers and National Guard Blackhawk helicopters are assisting. The Southern Area Incident Management Red Team is in place to assist with management of this complex of 4 fires in Stephens, Young, and Palo Pinto counties. For more information on these fires, contact Mary Bell Lunsford, Red Team Public Information Officer at 404-354-5027.  MOSSY ROCK RANCH, Stephens County. 800 acres, 75 percent contained. Located 8.5 miles southwest of Caddo. SOUTHWEST ROYALTY FIRE, Garza County. 2,000 acres, 40 percent contained. 10 homes are threatened. Heavy airtankers and single-engine air tankers assisted on this fire. This fire is 5 miles east of Wilson.   WILDCAT, Coke County.  158,867 acres, 30 percent contained. This fire is burning north of San Angelo. More than 400 homes have been saved.  The communities of Grape Creek, Quail Valley, Bronte, Robert Lee, Tennyson and Orient are threatened. Evacuations had been in effect for multiple communities, now currently lifted. With winds predicted from the east/northeast, firefighter crews will focus on structure protection on the southwest flank of the fire as well as conduct mop up operations on the eastern flank. Aviation resources will continue to aid in suppression and establishing fire control lines.  ROCKHOUSE, Presidio and Jeff Davis counties.  202,150 acres, 75 percent contained.  23 homes and 2 businesses were destroyed in the Ft. Davis area. Ten 20-person hand crews continue to work the fire.  Eight TIFMAS Type 1 engines and four tenders are assisting with the fire, as well as numerous airtankers and helicopters.  A base camp for hundreds of firefighters has been set up at the Fort Davis State Park. COOPER MOUNTAIN RANCH, Kent, Stonewall, Scurry and Fisher counties. 162,625 acres, 90 percent contained.  Four homes have been destroyed. SWENSON, Stonewall, King, and Knox counties.  122,500 acres, 90 percent contained.  The fire is burning near Swenson. BRYSON COMPLEX, Jack County.  7,500 acres, 70 percent contained.  More than 150 homes were threatened and saved in the town of Bryson.  70 people have been evacuated. The complex is made up of the 5,300-acre 1191/Rockcreek Fire and the 2,200-acre Shanafelt Fire. PIPELINE, Tyler County.  7,000 acres, 85 percent contained.  Forty homes are threatened on the fire burning in pine plantation 10 miles northeast of Kountze.  Two National Guard Blackhawks from San Antonio are assisting. SMITH, Young County.  2,000 acres, 85 percent contained.  The fire is burning six miles northeast of Graham.  No other information was received. CR 104, Eastland County.  2,000 acres, 85 percent contained.  The fire is burning two miles north of Cisco.  1,850 homes were threatened in the city of Cisco, as well as a church camp. Five homes and 1 vehicle destroyed. WICHITA COUNTY COMPLEX, Wichita County.  11,785 acres, 90 percent contained.  The complex is made up of three fires – Iowa West, Holiday, Missile – burning around Wichita Falls.  Shepard Air Force Base was threatened, as were hundreds of homes and apartment complexes around the area.  Seven homes are destroyed.  EAST SIDWYNICKS, Eastland County. 3,000 acres, 95 percent contained.  The fire is burning near Carbon City.  1,200 homes were threatened.   SUTTON, Crockett County.  31,120 acres, 90 percent contained.  The fire is burning 20 miles southwest of Ozona.  MIDDLE PEASE, Motley County. 400 acres, 90 percent contained. SEATs responded. Located two miles northwest of Matador. DAD’S CORNER, Archer County. 6,100 acres, 70 percent contained. Located 15 miles south southwest of Wichita Falls. Fifteen homes are threatened.   Prevention messages: ·         Obey outdoor burning bans. Don’t burn trash or debris when conditions are dry or windy. Unsafe burning of leaves, brush, household trash and other debris is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Texas. ·         Keep lawn mowers and agricultural equipment in proper working condition and avoid rocks and other materials which might cause a spark. ·         To report suspicious activities, call the Arson Hotline at (888) 501-3850. If possible, safely obtain an accurate description of the person and/or vehicle (including the license number) before calling the hotline.  ·         Humans cause more than 90 percent of all wildfires. Do not weld or cut without a spotter, a water source and a shovel.


Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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