The Rockhouse fire burned through Fort Davis, Texas on Sunday destroying 20 to 40 homes, according to the Texas Forest Service. Fort Davis is a small town about 200 miles southeast of El Paso and about 80 miles north of Big Bend National Park (map). The 80,000-acre fire is 10 percent contained as of Monday morning.
The fire spared Fort Davis National Historic Site, a U.S. Army cavalry fort built in 1854 to protect a mail route from San Antonio to El Paso. But the fire claimed the residence of a former Superintendent of the site, Jerry Yarbrough and his wife Jeanie. They are safe, but according to an email Sunday night from a friend of theirs:
They lost everything….they have only the clothes on their backs and the vehicle they were in while shopping in Odessa, Texas. They visited their home site this morning and found nothing….literally nothing….that is salvageable.
According to Jerry the fire started outside of Marfa, Texas yesterday during high winds. It raced twenty-one miles across the prairie and wooded landscape to Fort Davis, Texas in only 30 minutes precluding much preparation by anyone. It was reported that 65 mph winds pushed the fire into 40 foot flame lengths. The fire entered Fort Davis on the south side of the town and split into two sections that began to actively burn within the town. Jerry’s home lies on the southern edge of the small town and was burned to the ground even though it had been fireproofed and the land cleared to prevent fire by Jerry over the years.
The Rockhouse fire was one of many that were burning across Texas on Sunday. On Monday Quesinberry’s Type 1 Incident Management Team from the Southern Geographic area is assuming command of that fire and several others.
Saturday the Texas Forest Service issued a news release warning about the predicted weather for Sunday:
Wildfire weather conditions on Sunday could shape up to be among the worst in Texas history.
Key weather factors include pervasive drought conditions, sustained winds of 30 – 35 mph – gusting up to 50 mph, high temperatures and low relative humidity. These weather conditions along with record-dry vegetation increase the potential for wildfires not only starting but also spreading quickly.
Here is a summary of some of the larger fires in Texas according to a report from the Texas Forest Service.
- ROCKHOUSE, Presidio and Jeff Davis counties. 80,000 acres, 10 percent contained. Damage assessments are ongoing to determine the number of homes destroyed. The initial report indicates 20-40 lost.
- SWENSON, Stonewall, King, and Knox counties. 71,000 acres, 25 percent contained.
- HICKMAN, Midland County. 16,500 acres, 95 percent contained. Thirty-four homes were reported destroyed on this fire burning on the south side of Midland.
- KILLOUGH, Garza County. 40,000 acres, 50 percent contained.
- CRAWFORD RANCH, Moore and Potter counties. 60,000 acres, 80 percent contained.
In addition to the Type 1 IMTeam, the National Interagency Coordination Center has mobilized 2 Type 1 crews, 4 Initial Attack crews, 1 caterer, 8 helicopters, and 4 airtankers. More resource requests are expected.