Wildfire burns historic structures in Big Bend National Park

The fire started in Mexico and jumped the Rio Grande River

Castolon Fire Big Bend National Park
Fire damage to the barracks (Visitor Center and store) and picnic area in Big Bend National Park. Credit: NPS/T. VandenBerg.

A wildfire that started in Mexico jumped across the Rio Grande Wednesday May 22 and spread into the Castolon area in Big Bend National Park in Southern Texas. At least one historic structure was very heavily damaged, the barracks structure which housed the Castolon Visitor Center and La Harmonia store.

Castolon Fire Big Bend National Park
Structural and wildland engines used in defense of the Castolon Historic District, as seen from the driveway of the Officers Quarters. Image credit: NPS/CSchuler.

Thursday afternoon the Park provided a summary of the incident:

“Around 6pm [Wednesday], as the fire first entered the park, additional wildland crews as well as structural crews were called in. At that time, shade temperatures were near 109 degrees, with single digit relative humidity. Winds were pushing the fire NW toward the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, and based on fire behavior at that time, the fire was expected to stay in the lower elevations along the Rio Grande burning the mesquite and river cane bosques. Continue reading “Wildfire burns historic structures in Big Bend National Park”

Firefighter fatality in Texas

Andy Loller
Andy Loller. Photo credit: Weatherford Fire Department.

Richard “Andy” Loller, Jr., a firefighter assigned to the Scenic Loop Complex of Fires in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, suffered a medical emergency and passed away June 10. He was flown by helicopter to receive medical treatment and was stabilized before being placed on a medical airplane to Odessa to receive further treatment. While in flight he passed away.

“We are all deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Andy’s passing,” said Weatherford City Manager Sharon Hayes. “He will be sorely missed by the community and all who knew and worked with him. Our prayers are with his family at this time.”

Currently, arrangements are underway to care for his family. Firefighter Loller, Jr. was 42 years of age and was assigned to Weatherford, Texas Fire Department Station 36 on A-Shift. He served 13 years in the fire service and is survived by his wife, two children, and a sister.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of firefighter Loller.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Perry.
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18 fires being managed as Scenic Loop Complex in Texas

Scenic Loop Complex of Fires
Scenic Loop Complex of Fires, by SEAT pilot Marc Mullis. Uploaded to Inciweb June 6, 2018.

A thunderstorm on June 3 that pelted the Davis Mountains in west Texas with lightning started 18 wildfires. Rain that followed may have put some of them out and others could have burned together, but remaining are at least 7 fires ranging between 11 and 3,541 acres, for a total burned area of approximately 8,134 acres.

The fires are spreading through rough terrain and currently are not a threat to any subdivisions. They are 14 miles west of Fort Davis, 6 miles west of the McDonald Observatory, and as close as half a mile north of the McDannald Fire that burned 19,000 acres north of Highway 166 in the first part of May.

Map of the fires Scenic Loop Complex
Map of the fires in the Scenic Loop Complex. Current at 2:21 a.m. CDT June 6, 2018.

The Lone Star State Type 2 Incident Management Team is in unified command with the County of Jeff Davis to manage the fires. A Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered.

Currently firefighters are being supported by helicopters, as well as Very Large, Large, and Single Engine Air Tankers. Multiple hand crews are en route.

Mallard Fire in Texas reaches Highway 287

Hotshots Mallard Fire
A Hotshot crew en route to the Mallard Fire in Texas. Photo by CarrieAnn Fain.

(Originally published at 7:13 a.m. CDT May 13, 2018)

The Mallard Fire in the panhandle of Texas has been very active over the last two days and has burned a total of more than 63,000 acres. But where it has spread from rugged terrain into pastures and agricultural property firefighters have been more successful.

In two places it has approached U.S. Highway 287. Firefighters were able to stop it just before it hit the small community of Goodnight. But seven miles southeast of the town it crossed the highway and ran briefly into fields before being knocked down.

map mallard fire
Map showing the perimeter of the Mallard Fire at 9:42 p.m. CDT May 12, 2018.

On Sunday the area is just outside a Red Flag Warning area, but the weather will not be helping firefighters much today. The winds will be out of the south at 10 to 22 mph with gusts in the late afternoon reaching 29 mph. The temperature will max out at 94 while the relative humidity increases from 22 percent to 40 percent in the afternoon. There is a 38 percent chance of thunderstorms and gusty winds after 4 p.m.

Weather geeks are having a field day observing the Mallard Fire. For the last two days it has produced huge pyrocumulus clouds stretching for miles into Oklahoma. At times it has morphed into a supercell with lightning and mammatus clouds.

Over the last few years extreme fire behavior has become more “normal”. Firefighters must maintain their situational awareness. What they are used to seeing and expecting may not be, now, what actually occurs on a wildfire. Hopefully, technology that exists and has been talked about but not widely deployed, will be made available to firefighters so they can know in real time WHERE the fire is and WHERE firefighters are.

Mallard Fire burns over 30,000 acres southeast of Amarillo, Texas

Above:  GOES 16 satellite image of the Mallard Fire at 3:22 p.m. CDT May 11, 2018.

(Updated at 8:08 p.m. CDT May 11, 2018)

The time-lapse video below is mesmerizing!!


(Originally published at 4:37 p.m. CDT May 11, 2018)

A large wildfire is moving through Armstrong County in the Texas panhandle 32 miles southeast of Amarillo and 18 miles southwest of Clarendon. Friday afternoon the Texas Forest Service said it had burned approximately 34,000 acres.

On Thursday the Summer Field Fire merged with the Mallard Fire. Large air tankers, SEATs, and helicopters have been working the fire since Wednesday. A very large air tanker was ordered Thursday.

Mallard fire map
Heat detected by a satellite over the Mallard Fire in the Texas panhandle. The most recent, the red dots, are from 3:13 a.m. CDT May 11, 2018.

The photo below is from Friday:

Below is a photo from Thursday:

The fire is putting up a huge column of smoke and is creating a large pyrocumulus cloud blowing off to the east.

McDannald Fire mapped at 22,000 acres

The fire is 13 miles west of Fort Davis, Texas.

Above: Map of the McDannald Fire showing the approximate perimeter early Thursday morning May 3, 2018.

(Originally published at 8:43 a.m. CDT May 3, 2018)

The McDannald Fire in western Texas slowed Wednesday and officials were able to lift the voluntary evacuations that were in effect for the Davis Mountain Resort area.

A mapping flight at about 2 a.m. Thursday estimated the fire had burned 22,053 acres.

Jeff Davis County released the following information Wednesday evening:

With the cooler temperatures and higher humidity today the McDannald Fire has shown minimal fire growth. The east side of Paradise Ridge has little fire activity at this time and the head of the fire appears to be north of the Davis Mountain Resort.

Given these conditions, the County Judge and County EMC will lift the voluntary evacuation order at 8:00 PM this evening. Residents will be allowed back in after that time.

We appreciate the cooperation of all residents. Your actions allowed the structure crews in the Davis Mountain Resort to perform their work with minimal trouble.

map of the McDannald Fire 3d wildfire
3D map of the McDannald Fire showing the approximate perimeter early Thursday morning May 3, 2018.