A prescribed burn stalled a huge Texas fire — and Smokehouse Creek Fire hits the million-acre mark

Aerial images from Hutchinson County, Texas shot with a drone yesterday show the aftermath of a huge fire adjacent to a 7-mile swath of land that was prescription burned a few months ago near Borger, a Panhandle town of about 12,000 in north Texas.

Borger, Texas
Borger, Texas, on Wednesday. Photo by City of Borger / Hutchinson County Office of Emergency Management.
15:08 CST 02/29
15:08 CST 02/29

Northeast of there, the Smokehouse Creek Fire, the largest of at least five other active fires in the Panhandle, has burned over 1 million acres, leaving charred homes and buildings behind. The fire’s doubled in size since 03:00 CST on 02/28.

The drone images in a CNN report feature a 7-mile prescribed burn that was conducted a few months ago.

Officials with Borger’s Office of Emergency Management said the prescribed burn prevented a fire flank from spreading into the southern parts of the town, including the Meadowlark, Country Club, and Bunavista areas.

Borger map

“As much damage as we have, our proactive efforts did prevent even more,” Hutchinson County officials said. — [Panhandle fires photo gallery]

The fires in Texas and Oklahoma have burned so much land that the blackened ground is visible from space. Satellite imagery captured burn scars stretching from the Texas Panhandle into western Oklahoma Wednesday afternoon.

Satellite images from Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon show burn scars in the Texas Panhandle in the wake of devastating fires. CIRA/RAMMB
Satellite shots show burn scars in the Texas Panhandle in the wake of devastating fires. CIRA/RAMMB images.

Burn scars are often a combination of burned vegetation, debris, and a scorched layer of soil. In the satellite image above, the burn scar appears as charcoal gray and black against the tan unburned ground around it.

 ~ Thanks and a tip of the hardhat to Chris and Alison.

Close calls and injuries in Texas

A 215-acre wildfire in San Jacinto County was contained on August 2 according to a report by ABC-13 News. That afternoon, resources were requested from Texas A&M Forest Service (TAMFS) on the Snowhill Fire. Shortly after 1 p.m. crews on the fire reported moderate to high fire behavior with several structures threatened, evacuations under way, and road closures in place.

The agency also reported that two of its firefighters suffered burn injuries when fire behavior intensified at about 5 p.m.

The agency’s 24-hour report noted that fire behavior intensified on a part of the fire where a dozer crew was working. The two injured firefighters were not wearing PPE properly and both experienced first- and second-degree burns to the face, hands, and sides.

The two firefighters were transported to a hospital and both were treated and released.

Two days later the agency released its 72-hour report on an aircraft incident in Travis County.

On August 1 at about 10:30 p.m. an air tactical aircraft working a different fire was involved in an incident at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport — about 5 miles southeast of downtown Austin — after flying the Powder Keg Pine Fire near Bastrop, about 150 miles southwest of Lake Livingston near the location of the Snowhill Fire.

Texas map

TAMFS resources were requested on August 1 on the Powder Keg Pine Fire in Bastrop County. Numerous aircraft were dispatched, including the Air Attack Platform at the Gillespie County Airport in Fredericksburg. The aircraft is a King Air C90A turboprop registered to Safford Aviation Service in Coolidge, Arizona (which had not yet replied to a request for comment when this was posted).

At about 8:40 p.m. the aircraft was released from the fire and made a 30-minute flight back to the Gillespie County Airport. On approach, though, the pilot and ATGS reported an issue with landing gear indicators; just two of the three indicated that the landing gear was down and locked. The pilot and ATGS attempted to fix the issue manually, and at about 9:30 p.m. they reported they had two hours of fuel left and intended to fly to Austin-Bergstrom, an FAA-controlled airport, where they’d do fly-bys so the control tower could see whether the landing gear was actually down. After two fly-bys, the tower told them it appeared to be down, and they approached for landing.

Upon landing the aircraft, though, the right landing gear collapsed, and the right propeller blades contacted the concrete and were damaged. The right gear appeared to have collapsed back into the aircraft gear hold, according to the report.

Neither the pilot nor the ATGS was injured and no civilians were injured. Both the pilot and ATGS were in constant radio communication with TAMFS dispatch in College Station, and the aircraft was tracked using the real-time map-based Automated Flight Following (AFF) system. The NTSB will investigate.

Spectrum News reported that Texas A&M Forest Service, the state’s lead agency for wildfire response, on Monday raised the state’s preparedness level to 4 — its second-highest level. The agency said over the past seven days it has responded to 80 wildfires burning 8,521 acres, with 41 fires since Friday.

The forecast for this week calls for more triple-digit temperatures with few chances for rain, and 164 Texas counties are now under burn bans.

More than 70 cars burn in grass parking lot near Temple, Texas

Robinson Family Farm Fire
Robinson Family Farm Fire. Lisa Adams.

The parking lot at the Robinson Family Farm in Temple, Texas turned into an inferno Saturday afternoon during their annual pumpkin patch event. According to the owner of the farm no injuries were reported but approximately 73 vehicles were destroyed when a wind-driven fire spread rapidly through the mowed pasture used as a parking lot.

Robinson Family Farm Fire
Robinson Family Farm. KCENN.

From KWTX:

The Temple Fire & Rescue Department responded to the blaze at around 1 p.m. Oct. 15. Multiple fire departments from Little River Academy, Troy, Rogers, Salado, Holland, Bartlett and Belton were called to assist.

The first units to arrive found approximately 10 cars on fire in the pasture area used for parking but due to the numbers of cars involved, the East Side Strike Team was called to bring in additional resources.

Fire crews were able to move some of the cars out of the way of the flames.

One attendee on Facebook wrote, “I have to say that is the most exciting and expensive pumpkin patch we’ve been to” after their family van “burned to a crisp.”

Robinson Family Farm Fire
Cars burn at Robinson Family Farm in Texas. KCENN.

On April 3, 2020 3,516 rental cars parked in a mowed field near the Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) near Fort Myers, Florida burned in a similar manner.

“The cars were stored in a location not ordinarily used for any specific purpose”, Victoria B. Moreland, Director of Communications and Marketing for the airport said at the time. “The large number was due to the car rental agencies serving RSW not renting inventory during the peak season due to the current COVID-19 crisis.”

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
More than 3,500 rental cars burn at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Fort Myers Fire Department photo.

At one point firefighters in Florida used dozers to build fireline through the cars to stop the spread.

Scooping air tanker crashes in Texas Lake, pilot rescued

Posted on Categories WildfireTags , ,

The single engine air tanker was refilling at Lake Livingston

7:27 p.m. CDT August 9, 2022

Map, August 9, 2022 helicopter crash
Map, August 9, 2022 helicopter crash in Lake Livingston, Texas.

This article was first published at Fire Aviation.

Tuesday afternoon, August 9, a single engine air tanker working on a wildfire in southeast Texas crashed in Lake Livingston. The pilot was quickly rescued, taken to shore, and treated.

The accident was announced by the Texas Forest Service’s Lone Star State Incident Management Team which said the agency was assisting with wildfires in the Corrigan area.

The incident occurred at about 5 p.m. CDT. Lake Livingston is 25 miles southwest of Corrigan and 55 miles northeast of Houston.

The Air Tractor 802 Fire Boss is amphibious. It has floats and can skim across the surface of a lake to refill its water tank, then fly to the fire and assist firefighters by dropping water. The Texas Forest Service does not own any air tankers, they issue contracts to private companies.

When we hear more about the condition of the pilot we will update this article. An 802 Fire Boss usually only has one person on board.

File photo of an Air Tractor 802 Fire Boss operated by Conair. Not necessarily the aircraft involved in the incident.
File photo of an Air Tractor 802 Fire Boss. Not the aircraft involved in the incident.

There have been two other incidents in the last seven days involving Air Tractor 802 Fire Boss air tankers.

On August 3 a Fire Boss suffered an engine failure and made a forced landing while working on a fire in British Columbia. The pilot survived.

Two days later on August 5 a Fire Boss crashed and sank in the Gulf of Elefsina while working on a fire near Nea Peramos in Greece. It occurred about 12 miles west of Athens as the air tanker was scooping water. Both crew members were rescued.

There have been three recent fatal helicopter crashes related to wildfires.

On July 16, 2022 a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Bell UH-1H Huey helicopter crashed northeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico, killing all four on board. It had been assisting with a wildfire, providing bucket drops and other air logistics needs to fire crews on the ground.

A Boeing CH-47D helicopter crashed into the Salmon River July 20, 2022 while working on the Moose Fire in Idaho, firefighters swam across the river to extract and care for the two pilots. Unfortunately, both of the pilots died from their injuries.

On June 26, 2022 a Bell UH-1B operated by Northern Pioneer Helicopters out of Big Lake, Alaska was attempting to assist firefighters by hauling equipment to the Clear Fire by a 125-foot long line. It was maneuvering at the Clear Airport 53 miles southwest of Fairbanks about 140 feet above the ground to have the end of the long line connected to the cargo. A loud noise was heard and the helicopter fell to the ground, killing the pilot, the only person on board.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.

Cresson Volunteer Fire Department’s engine burned over in brush fire

Southwest of Fort Worth, Texas

Cresson Volunteer FD engine burned over
Photo by Cresson Volunteer FD, August 3, 2022.

From the Cresson Volunteer Fire Department, August 3, 2022

“This afternoon we sent 3 trucks to help on a wildfire reportedly started by welding north of Tolar. While working with a group of other trucks in a clear area extinguishing spot fires one of our trucks stalled and lost mobility. Seeing that the fire was approaching, our crew left the truck on foot and retreated to a safe area. Another truck picked them up and our firefighters were evaluated by EMS. One of our firefighters did inhale some smoke and had burns on a small portion of his face and arms. He was flown to Parkland, and his evaluation is excellent. We don’t know yet, but he may be released without even spending the night. These are dangerous fires for all of us, and our guys’ training and decision making kept a bad incident from getting worse. UPDATE: just received confirmation that our firefighter is being released and heading home from the hospital.”

More information

Grass fire burns into Dallas suburb, destroys 9 homes

Another 17 were damaged

11:53 p.m. CDT July 25, 2022

Balch Springs Fire
Grass fire spreads into neighborhood in Balch Springs, Texas, July 25, 2022. Image from video by FOX 4 Dallas-Fort Worth.

A grass fire burned into a suburb of Dallas, Texas Monday afternoon destroying 9 homes and damaging another 17, according to city officials. It occurred in Balch Springs when a mower struck an object in a field, creating a spark which ignited dry grass near Interstate 20 and South Beltline Road.

A steady breeze pushed the fire into a row of houses adjacent to the field. One by one the fire ignited house after house, aided by a fence that ran behind and between all of the homes which contributed to the fuel load and the continuous spread.

Balch Springs Fire
Grass fire spreads into neighborhood in Balch Springs, Texas, July 25, 2022. Image from video by FOX 4 Dallas-Fort Worth.

In the 30-minute video below very few firefighters are seen for the first 20 minutes. Balch Springs, with an estimated population of about 25,000 in 2019 has about eight firefighters working on any given day, Fox 4 news reported. The fire was well established when the video began, with at least one home already burning.

Looking at the video from a firefighter’s perspective, it is interesting to see how the fire progresses as the fence and outbuildings burn intensely, structures ignite, police gather in the street, a dog in a backyard looks worried (at 17:48), and little is seen in the video to initially stop the spread through the field or the neighborhood. However we don’t see the street side of the homes except at the very beginning; there may have been more firefighter activity on that side. There was a tower/ladder truck in the street that looked like it kept about four houses from being destroyed.

Our hearts go out to the residents who lost their homes.