Breckenridge Texan

Crews fight fires in Stephens County as dry conditions persist

Crews fight fires in Stephens County as dry conditions persist
August 21
18:17 2023

By Tony Pilkington and Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Local firefighters battled a wildfire just south of Breckenridge, in the area east of County Road 224, north of FM 2231, beginning before 3 p.m. today, Monday, Aug. 21. Some residents in the area were preparing to evacuate, if necessary, as emergency crews worked to keep the fire from spreading.

At about 4 p.m., Stephens County Fire Marshal Wayne McMullen said firefighters were successfully getting the fire under control. No required evacuations were necessary, although CR 224 was temporarily closed to traffic; McMullen asked that drivers avoid the area, if possible, as firefighters continued to make sure the fire doesn’t get out of control again.

“Everything is looking much better at this time,” McMullen said in a video posted on Facebook by Stephens County Judge Michael Roach. “We still have wind gusts out here, which is causing some problems from time to time. Right now, we are getting it under control. It’s not completely under control, but we are working on that and it’s looking much better than when we first got here.”

Firefighters from Wayland Volunteer Fire Department spray hot spots at the CR 224 fire. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/ Breckenridge Texan)

About 20 acres were burned, but no structures were affected, Breckenridge Fire Chief Malcom Bufkin said. In fighting the fire, there were tankers going around the edges of the fire and a backhoe and a County maintainer working to cut a fire break.

Responding to the fire were the Breckenridge Fire Department, Hubbard Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Wayland VFD, the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office, the Breckenridge Police Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The fire on CR 224 was at least the second Stephens County fire of the day. Shortly before noon today, firefighters put out a grassfire on State Highway 67, about two miles from the U.S. Highway 180 intersection. That fire appeared to be started by a downed power line, and the area experienced a brief power outage as Oncor worked to repair the line.

In Young County, a grassfire is burning on State Highway 16 North at Cearley Road, about halfway between Graham and Loving. That fire was reportedly moving northwest, and the Young County Arena was open for residents to take their livestock to, if they needed to evacuate. At about 5 p.m. today, the Texas A&M Forest Service reported that the Cearley Fire had burned 500 acres and was 0% contained. There are also wildfires east of Stephenville and east of Weatherford.

Current burn bans in Texas

Almost 80 percent of the state of Texas is under a burn ban, including Stephens County and all of the surrounding counties, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

McMullen reminded residents to avoid doing anything that emits sparks. On Monday, Aug. 14, the Stephens County Commissioners voted to expand the Burn Ban that was originally approved on July 10. The updated ban requires that anyone doing work such as welding or shredding must have a spotter to keep an eye out for sparks, as well as water nearby.

According to the order approved last week, any activity that emits a flame or spark “must have, in addition to the individual(s) performing the work, a spotter to supervise any activity to prevent a fire or its spreading. A minimum of 50 gallons of water and an adequate dispensing mechanism (pump and hose) must be in the immediate vicinity of the activity where a flame or spark(s) are emitted (THIS INCLUDES WELDING AND SHREDDING).”

The order does not prohibit outdoor burning activities related to public health and safety that are authorized by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for firefighter training; public utility, natural gas pipeline, or mining operations; planting or harvesting of agricultural crops; or burns that are conducted by a prescribed burn manager certified under Natural Resources Code, Section 153.048, and meet the standards of Natural Resources Code, Section 153.047.

According to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), an index used to determining forest fire potential, most of Stephens County is in the maximum KBDI category, indicating extreme dryness.

The Breckenridge Fire Department fills up the water tank for a Hubbard Creek VFD crew. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Crews from three fire departments, along with other emergency responders, fought the fire on CR 224 to keep it from spreading to nearby neighborhoods on Monday, Aug. 21. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Breckenridge firefighters spray down a field on State Highway 67 shortly after noon on Monday, Aug. 21. The initial indication was that the fire was started by a downed power line. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Cutline, top photo: Smoke billows across County Road 224, just south of Breckenridge, as emergency vehicles line the road. The fire started before 3 p.m., and firefighters worked to keep it from spreading to houses in the area. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)



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