Breckenridge Texan

Wildfires keep area firefighters busy over weekend, burn ban continued

Wildfires keep area firefighters busy over weekend, burn ban continued
June 25
14:29 2018

Following a weekend of high wildfire activity that kept area firefighters busy – and required medical treatment for two of the firefighters – Stephens County Commissioners voted during their meeting Monday to continue the county-wide burn ban.

Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney told commissioners that firefighters from several of the departments in the area battled wildfires from late Saturday night through early Sunday morning and then again on Sunday afternoon. He said many of the fires were started by downed power lines and lighting strikes caused by a storm the came through the area late Saturday night.

Chaney said the first fire on Saturday night, which burned about one acre, was located on South FM 3099, across from the Breckenridge Golf Course, was started by power lines arcing, which set the grass and brush piles on fire.

Another fire was on County Road 274, near the North Cove neighborhood. Chaney said it was originally called in as a house fire but turned out to be a large grassfire that was started by lighting and burned around 15 acres.

The third fire, on South Post Oak (County Road 224) near the former Colonial Ridge nursing home, burned about five acres from West Elliott Street to the South Loop and threatened four homes.

Chaney said firefighters finished up around 4 a.m. Sunday morning. They were called out again Sunday afternoon, around 1:30 p.m., to a fire on County Road 279 (T.C. Harris Road), that burned about 50-60 acres.

While they were fighting that fire, Chaney said, another fire was called in on the west end of the county at Snake Bend on the Shackelford County line. He said Breckenridge fire units pulled off the fire on County Road 279 to respond to that fire, and the Woodson Volunteer Fire Department finished putting out the fire. Also assisting were the Hubbard Creek VFD, Wayland VFD, Eliasville VFD and the Throckmorton VFD.

The fire call on the county line turned out to be inside Shackelford County about two miles from the Stephens County line. Chaney said the fire was in extreme terrain. “It’s steep. It’s rocky. It’s rough,” he said. “There wasn’t nothing we could do with it.”

By Monday morning, the fire was still burning and had burned around 1,800 acres.

Chaney said Stephens County sent six trucks on Sunday to assist with the fire. He said there were two trucks from the Breckenridge Fire Department, two trucks from the Wayland Volunteer Fire Department and two trucks from the Hubbard Creek Volunteer Fire Department. He said those units were finally released from the fire around 11 p.m. Sunday, but that he would probably send another unit back on Monday to assist.

Two firefighters were treated for heat issues at the Shackelford Fire, Chaney said. One was from a Shackleford County fire department; he was treated and released at the scene. A firefighter from Stephens County was transported by ambulance to Stephens Memorial Hospital, where he was treated and later released. He is in good condition, Chaney said.

The fire chief told commissioners that on Sunday the Texas A&M Forest service had only one bulldozer on the scene at the Shackleford County fire, but they were expected to have five by Monday. Around  9:30 a.m. on Monday, a convoy of Texas A&M Forest Service vehicles drove through downtown  Breckenridge, headed west. Also, Chaney said the north wind will help because it will push the fire back on areas that have already been burned.

Although there were several structures threatened by the fires over the weekend, Chaney said none were damaged or destroyed. And, he said, there were also no reports of injuries, other than the firefighters at the Shackleford County fire.

The burn ban remains in effect as high temperatures and strong winds are expected to continue in the area throughout the week. Chaney said people should take extreme caution when welding or cutting.

“You don’t need to be cutting or welding without a spotter; that’s a big deal,” he said. “You need water on hand, a spotter for each device that emits sparks or anything that’s hot. The best deal is: don’t do it in these conditions. We had 25- to 30-mile an hour winds yesterday. You gotta use extreme caution.”

Chaney said they responded to a fire over the weekend in the southern part of Stephens County near La Casa that was caused by sparks from someone cutting on a cattle guard. He said the Ranger Fire Department, who received the initial 911 call, arrived first and had already extinguished the fire by the time the BFD arrived. However, he said, because the people who called in the fire said it was getting close to their house, they sent more equipment. He said a truck from the Breckenridge Fire Department, the Caddo Volunteer Fire Department and the Wayland Volunteer Fire Department were dispatched to fire.

“We try to prepare for the worst,” Chaney said. “With the high winds and the low humidity and dry grass, that instantly keys us to run different.”

 

Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: The hood of a Breckenridge Fire Department truck can be seen in the foreground of this photo, taken as the firefighters approached a fire this weekend. The smoke from the fire can be spotted just beyond the tree line. (Photo courtesy of Calvin Chaney/Breckenridge Fire Department)

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