BLISTERING WINTER:

Wildfires continue to ignite 'Tinderbox' Texas

The widespread wildfires all over the state finally hit South Texas last Thursday when this fire erupted in north Bexar County, burning nearly 150 acres and demanding the efforts of 17 area fire departments. Photo by Kevin Force.


By Kevin Force, Editor

A brush fire in north Bexar County burned nearly 150 acres and required the efforts of firefighters from at least 17 different departments and helicopters from the Texas Forestry Department to contain it on Thursday afternoon.

The fire, which started around 1 p.m. northeast of the intersection of Bulverde Road and Evans Road, burned for more than six hours before crews were able to contain it.

Although the blaze was located in Bexar County, professional and volunteer firefighters from all over Comal County responded, including Canyon Lake Fire/EMS, Bulverde, Spring Branch, Bracken, and New Braunfels.

"We sent personnel to help out as part of the mutual aid agreement," Lt. Jeff Schultz of Canyon Lake Fire/EMS said. "That fire was bigger scale than usual, and they needed some extra manpower to cover the area."

Heavy winds and a record drought, along with the recent rash of wildfires scorching northern Texas, caused a quick response from all area departments. As a result, the fire was contained within a few hours except for a few hot spots.

By 3:30 p.m., the fire had charred at least 100 acres, and by 5 p.m., officials on the scene asked the residents of more than 100 homes to evacuate. No homes or structures burned in the fire, but the evacuations were a precautionary measure because of heavy smoke and high winds.

Fossil Ridge, the closest subdivision in the area, saw its residents evacuated for about two hours while crews worked to control the fire. The subdivision, which consists of a few completed homes and several others in the building process, was unscathed, and the evacuation order was lifted by 7 p.m. when crews on the scene were confident that the fire was contained and would not spread.

The body of the fire covered undeveloped land, and while that meant no structure fires and little danger to people, it also made battling the blaze more difficult. Fire engines and tankers penetrated the area as deep as possible using dirt roads, but relied heavily upon the assistance of bulldozing equipment and helicopters from the Texas Forestry Service.

Three Black Hawk helicopters and a reconnaissance plane assisted the firefighting efforts from above while bulldozing equipment was used to remove dry vegetation and other debris that could become fuel for the fire. The helicopters made several passes in turn over the burn area, dropping gallons of water on it until it was contained.

Firefighting crews also got some assistance from contractors in the area who were constructing new homes in the subdivision when the fire began.

Officials were unable to determine the cause, but said that no injuries were reported and no structures were burned.

Although the fire was contained by 7:30 p.m., crews stayed on-site overnight to completely control the fire and watch for hot spots that could re-ignite. That included Canyon Lake crews.

"Friday, we sent a brush truck with more personnel to help with the hot spots," Schultz said.

Schultz noted that in the event that Comal County suffered a similar fire, their assistance would be reciprocated under the area-wide mutual aid agreement

"But fortunately we haven't had any major fires since in our county since the burn ban was put in place," he said.


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