A DEPUTY passed away in Eastland County on Friday as Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered evacuations in 11 counties as fear of extreme drought conditions mounts.
The Cisco Police Department took to Facebook to mourn the death of Deputy Barbara Fenley, who died while trying to save people from the fires.
The department’s post read: “It is with very heavy hearts that today we learned of the death of one our Eastland County Deputies who put it all on the line last night trying to save people from the horrible fires.”
The situation in Texas may also worsen as a drought is affecting large swathes of Texas, from the Dallas and Fort Worth suburbs in the east to Lubbock in the north and Odessa and Midland in the west.
Winds from the parched southwest are expected to pick up on Sunday and Monday, furthering the fire’s progress.
Gov. Abbott issued a disaster declaration on Friday for 11 counties across Texas.
The declaration was put in place in response to the ongoing wildfires across the state and the wildfires that merged to form what fire officials call a “complex.”
As of Friday night, the Eastland Complex fires covered at least 45,000 acres, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.
Read our Texas wildfires live blog for the latest news and updates…
Worst wildfire in Texas history, conclusion
The fire claimed the lives of two people in the Bastrop region and burned 1,691 homes, more than any other fire in Texas history.
The second-most devastating fire on record, which occurred in April 2011, burned 168 residences, while the third, which occurred in December 2005, destroyed 116.
The Bastrop fire was estimated to have cost $325million in insured damages.
Worst wildfire in Texas history, continued
Texas had been hit by a succession of wildfires in the months leading up to the Bastrop County Complex fire, with numerous unique record-breaking weather conditions that would contribute to combustion.
Texas saw its worst single-year drought since the 1950s, had the lowest single-year rainfall since 1895, and had the warmest June–August period of any US state at any point in time on record, surpassing even the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Tropical Storm Lee compounded the situation by bringing high winds during the Labor Day weekend, creating ideal conditions for wildfires to grow.
According to estimates, 63 additional fires were ignited between September 4 and September 6.
Worst wildfire in Texas history
The Bastrop County Complex fire, which ravaged Bastrop County in September and October 2011, was the most devastating wildfire in Texas history.
Three distinct fires broke out on September 4, 2011, as a result of high winds brought on by neighboring Tropical Storm Lee, and eventually combined into one major wildfire burning east of Bastrop.
The fire killed four individuals and destroyed 1,673 dwellings, causing an estimated $325million in insured property damage. Bastrop State Park and the old Lost Pines Forest were also severely damaged by the fire.
The fire was declared controlled on October 10 after being fully contained in late September.
Later in October, the fire went underground and was ultimately put out on October 29.
Keeping safe during a wildfire, continued
The CDC also shared tips regarding what one should do to keep safe during a wildfire.
- Keep smoke outside
- Reduce smoke exposure by wearing a respirator
- Keep pets and animals inside
- Keep track of fires nearby
- Pay attention to health symptoms
Keeping safe during a wildfire
It is critical for everyone to limit their exposure to smoke when wildfires generate smoky conditions, according to the CDC.
Smoke from wildfires irritates the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. It might make it difficult to breathe and cause coughing or wheezing.
Wildfire smoke should be avoided by children, pregnant women, and persons with asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), or heart disease.
Austin nonprofit sends assistance
On Saturday, the Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN) will distribute hygiene kits and emergency funding to wildfire survivors in Eastland in the form of gift cards.
Fire departments across Texas assist
Fire departments from all around the state are contributing to the efforts, including those from North Texas, and groups such as the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention are assisting by sending food and supplies to firemen.
Aerial support possible on Sunday
The winds that were causing the flames to spread slowed on Friday and Saturday, allowing for aircraft help, but will pick up again on Sunday, gusting to 28 mph.
Elevated fire weather threat
According to the National Weather Service, there was an elevated fire weather threat along US-281 west of Dallas-Fort Worth.
Critical fire conditions could also be possible on Sunday in an area stretching from Val Verde County near the Mexican border to the Hill Country in the state’s central and southern regions, according to the New York Times.
Texas A&M Forest Service responds to fires
The Texas A&M Forest Service said on Friday that it had responded to 10 wildfires throughout the state, which had burnt over 52,000 acres.
It claimed that firefighting workers were safeguarding structures and constructing fire-containment lines, and that planes were dropping water and fire-retardant chemicals in the region.
How many acres were burned?
The Eastland Complex fire, which consists of four different fires west of Dallas-Fort Worth, has burnt over 45,000 acres and was 15 percent controlled by Saturday morning, according to the Texas A&M Fire Service.
Elevated threat remains
On Saturday, parts of western and central Texas were still under a high fire-threat as workers attempted to put out a blaze that had killed one deputy sheriff, burned scores of houses, and threatened hundreds more.
Homes destroyed and many evacuated
Officials announced on Friday that a wildfire in central Texas killed at least one person, damaged 50 homes, and forced roughly 500 people from their homes, according to the New York Times.
Photos show deadly blaze
Images from the scenes of the fires in Texas illustrate the severity of the conditions there.
One picture, captured by the Texas A&M Forest Service, shows the night sky lit up by tall flames.
In another photo, a man walks through the remains of the Ranger Law Enforcement Center in Ranger, Texas, which was destroyed by flames.
Footage shows blaze overnight
Nick Bradshaw, a reporter for KXXV 25 News, captured footage of fire two miles outside of Carbon, Texas.
The small town in Eastland County is one of the several communities that saw evacuations over the weekend.
Fires impact Texas roadways
Downed power lines across Texas created roadblocks on several roads.
In Eastland County, the Texas Department of Transportation issued a traffic alert for areas that are currently blocked for utility repairs.
Which counties are under disaster declaration?
Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration in 11 Texas counties.
Those counties are Brooks, Brown, Coleman, Comanche, Eastland, Grayson, Mason, Potter, Randall, Reynolds, and Williamson.
Facebook group dedicated to helping farmers
Many farmers will focus on repairing damage and restoring their properties in the days and weeks following the fire.
A Facebook group, Central Texas Fire Relief – Farm and Ranch, aims to help “farmers and ranchers get organized.”
Farmers impacted by the fire can seek supplies and services in the group.
Members of the group may be able to provide hay, feed, fencing materials, hauling, cowboy labor, fencing repair, livestock shelters and water well services.
How to help, part two
Thuy Howeth of Keller Williams Heritage is also collecting supplies.
Firefighters would especially appreciate Listerine, eye drops, eyewash and baby wipes, according to Fox West Texas.
Supplies can be delivered to any of the following Keller Williams Heritage offices:
- Cisco office: 721 Conrad Hilton Blvd., Cisco, TX 76437
- Stephenville office: 2301 Northwest Loop, Ste 102, Stephenville, TX 76401
- Weatherford office: 200 S. Oakridge Dr., Ste 103 Hudson Oaks, TX 76087
- Granbury office: 1099 Waters Edge Dr., Ste 100, Granbury, TX 76048
How to help, part one
Several organizations across Texas are working to help those in Eastland County impacted by the fires.
According to Fox West Texas, the Junior League of San Angelo and Junior League of Abilene are collecting the following items:
- Cereal/oatmeal packets/fruits and vegetables/juice
- First aid items
- Hygiene essentials
- Toilet paper
- Adult diapers
- Doggy pads
- Water or Gatorade for firefighters
‘It hurts the whole community’
“I’ve been fire chief here 40 years and when you have something like this… it hurts. It hurts the whole community,” Ranger Fire Department Chief Darrell Fox told CBS DFW News of the wildfires in Texas.
“You know, this church had been here for 100 years,” he said of a church that was seemingly destroyed in the blaze in a post the church shared on Facebook.
“[And] this right here was my first fire station when I first went to work for the City of Ranger. So you know, a lot of it is sentimental.”
Fire risk across the south & central plains
The National Weather Service announced a watch for fire weather conditions over the weekend and into Monday.
“Fire Weather is expected across portions of the region both Sunday and Monday afternoon and evening,” the NWS Midland Region wrote in a tweet.
“Very dry weather and strong winds are expected to result in critical fire weather conditions. Avoid outdoor burning and activities that generate sparks.”
Better containment of La Paloma Fire
The La Paloma Fire, in Starr County, is a smaller fire that is currently better-contained than the Eastland blaze.
The La Paloma Fire was 80% contained as of early Saturday.
Eastland Fires are 15% contained
The Texas A&M Forest Service released an update about the Eastland fires.
As of Saturday morning, the fires remained at 15% contained.