50 homes burn in wildfires southeast of Abilene, Texas

Deputy Sheriff killed while evacuating residents on the Eastland Complex of fires

Updated at 9:31 a.m. CT March 20, 2022

Saturday night the Texas Forest Service released the sizes of the four wildfires in the Eastland Complex :

Kidd Fire  42,333 acres
Oak Mott Fire  4,031 acres
Wheat Field Fire  7,268 acres
Walling Fire  383 acres
TOTAL: 54,015 acres

The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday that 86 homes and a majority of the small town of Carbon, Texas, were destroyed.

The video below illustrates why the recent fires in Texas have been difficult to stop.

Updated 1:14 p.m. CT March 19, 2022

Map of Eastland Complex of fires in Texas
Map of Eastland Complex of fires in Texas at 8 p.m. March 18, 2022.

At least 50 homes have been destroyed by wildfires that broke out in the Eastland County area this week, Gov. Greg Abbott said during a news conference Friday at the Eastland Volunteer Fire Department.

Sergeant Barbara Fenley. Eastland County Sheriff's Office
Sergeant Barbara Fenley. Eastland County Sheriff’s Office photo.

The Governor presented a Texas flag to a relative of Sergeant Barbara Fenley of the Eastland County Sheriff’s Office who was killed while evacuating residents from the fires.

“While evacuating people and going door-to-door, Fenley was last heard that she was going to check on an elderly individual,” a statement from the Sheriff’s office read. “With the extreme deteriorating conditions and low visibility from smoke, Sgt. Fenley ran off the roadway and was engulfed in the fire. Sgt. Fenley gave her life in the service of others and loved her community.”

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Eastland Complex of fires in Texas, including the most recent, click here: https://wildfiretoday.com/tag/eastland-complex/

The Fort Worth Police Officers Association wrote on their Facebook page, “Sergeant Fenley had served with the Eastland County Sheriff’s Office for nine years and had previously served with the Gorman Police Department for 10 years, including six years as the police chief.”

Four fires 40 to 45 miles east-southeast of Abilene, Texas primarily in Eastland County have burned at least 45,000 acres; unofficial reports put it at more than 53,000. For administrative purposes the Texas Forest Service has grouped them into the Eastland Complex of fires.

Eastland Complex of fires, Texas. March, 2022
Eastland Complex of fires, Texas. March, 2022. Texas Forest Service photo.

The acreages below were provided at 11 a.m. CT, March 19 by Angel Lopez Portillo, a spokesperson for the fires.

The Kidd Fire, approximately 34,000 acres, south of Eastland burned through Carbon March 17, heavily impacting structures. On Friday there was increased activity on the southern portion of the fire. Ground crews, dozers, motor graders, and aircraft worked on hotspots. Engine crews were focused on mop up operations around structures. Ground resources will continue building containment lines around the fire perimeter Saturday.

The Wheatfield Fire northeast of Cross Plains has burned  an estimated 5,000 acres. There was increased activity Friday, but ground and aviation resources were able to work hotpots. There is currently no threat to the community of Rising Star. On Saturday resources will focus on constructing, widening, and improving containment lines.

The Oak Mott Fire has blackened 5,252 acres southwest of Rising Star in Comanche and Brown Counties. It is completely contained.

The Walling Fire northeast of Cross Plains was mapped at 383 acres and is contained.

A fire not in the Complex is the 586-acre Mariah Ridge Fire south of Cross Plains in Brown and Callahan Counties. It has not grown in the last 24 hours.

Other unconfirmed reports put the Kidd Fire at 41,000 acres, and the Wheat Field Fire at more than 6,000 acres.

Mr. Portillo said that in addition to firefighters on the ground, resources working on the fires include three single engine air tankers, two National Guard Blackhawk helicopters, a National Guard Chinook helicopter, another large Type 1 helicopter, and three large fixed wing air tankers.

The wind on the fires decreased Friday and on Saturday will be out of the southwest at 8 to 12 mph, and like on Friday will be moderate enough to allow aircraft to assist firefighters on the ground. The relative humidity will drop Saturday afternoon into the mid-teens under clear skies with a high of 77 degrees. A Fire Weather Watch has been issued for Western Texas on Sunday. The strong winds will be back in the fire area, 20 mph out of the south and southeast gusting to 28 mph with relative humidity in the mid-teens. Rain is in the forecast for Monday.

Texas Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watch
Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watch, March 19, 2022.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

11 thoughts on “50 homes burn in wildfires southeast of Abilene, Texas”

  1. I’m wondering how many houses and other structures might have been saved if there had been an independent, automatic, fire suppression system installed inside and outside.

    I’m tinkering with such a system. I have 5,500 gallons of dedicated water storage in three tanks. I probably need more, but this is a demonstration project designed to intercept primarily airborne burning/glowing material such as embers or firebrands. (Btw, has anyone noticed drifts of such burning material piling up in places like inside corners such that a long-lasting drift pile is created? Fire investigators?)

    Any ideas about non-China pumps for this kind of job? I’m trying to figure out how to make it as cost-effective as possible without sacrificing effectiveness?

    1. There have been several automated outside the residence systems invented. The Watchman was test proven (five years) to be an effective with little maintenance. Homeowner installed with common material, about five hundred dollars for hardware. The Watchman used a fuze device outside the residence to activate the Wobbler water applicators. Water supply and electrical back up a must. Company went out of business, “it won’t happen to me”

  2. Doesn’t Texas have a Tornado Warning System? Could they not use the Tornado Warning System for fires too? Just a thought!

    1. They do use it. You will see fire warnings issued. For instance in Kansas the other day when the 18 Valley fire was rolling they issued a fire warning. It shows up on the NWS watch/warning map, sets off weather radios, etc. I will bet you will see one issued today as a large portion of the plains is red flag.

    2. Here is one from today already

      BULLETIN – EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED Fire Warning Texas EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY Fort Worth Texas Relayed by National Weather Service Fort Worth TX 208 PM CDT Sun Mar 20 2022 The following message is transmitted at the request of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. WILDFIRE – EVACUATE NOW A fast moving wildfire is located near FM 2731 and County Road 230 between Highway 183 and Texas Highway 206. Residents in the vicinity of this fire north of FM 2731 and County Road 230 are urged to evacuate immediately to the north using Highway 206 in Eastland County.

    3. An evacuation warning. There are numerous fire warnings in the plains today.

      BULLETIN – EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED Evacuation Immediate Texas EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY San Angelo Texas Relayed by National Weather Service San Angelo TX 457 PM CDT Sun Mar 20 2022 The following message is transmitted at the request of the Brown County Emergency Management. Immediate Evacuation – Wildfire A fire is threatening lives and property just northwest of Blanket. the evacuation area is bounded by: County Road 331 on the south side, County Road 351 on the west side, and County Road 355 on the east side, all the way to FM1467. Evacuate now if you are in the area mentioned and monitor local media for more information…. People in and around the evacuation area should follow the advice of local authorities. Do not attempt to fight the fire yourselves. For more information tune to local radio and TV.

    1. Thanks for the informative map. I’m sure it will be of value to all who read this site. God Bless Texas.

  3. Tragic and sad! Loss of a dedicated person’s life and fifty homes that someone called home. The tactics of fighting these size fires is selected defensive. Look ahead (down-wind) and what is going to be loss in the next thirty minutes?
    It’s not magic, more air tankers (VLAT’s) and Type 1 helicopters. What would the aerial assets numbers look like on a similar size fire in the west? Or another way to look at it is, lose some win some.

    1. Extreme winds and visibility prevented any aircraft from flying when the Eastland fires burned. No tactic would have stopped the heads. Plowed fields and the occasional green field were about all that did, but spotting was in the extreme range downwind as well, jumping large field altogether.


Comments are closed.