Wildfire at 35 percent contained; over 2000 evacuated

Wildfire at 35 percent contained; over 2000 evacuated

12 May 2014

published by http://lubbockonline.com

USA — Emergency management officials said at 1 p.m. Monday that 131 structures and 2,583 acres of land have been destroyed by a wind-fueled wildfire still smoldering in Hutchinson County.

Revised estimates put the fire at only 35 percent contained, said Troy Ducheneaux, a regional coordinator for the Texas Forest Service.

“We’ve got crews still in the area. They are mopping it up at this point. We’ve got a lot of hotspots. You know how yuccas and mesquite are, they don’t want to go out,” Fritch Police Chief Monte Leggett said Monday morning. “Lake Meredith Harbor is still in full evacuation. No one in, no one out. … The majority of the destruction was in the Lake Meredith Harbor subdivision.”

Residents probably won’t be allowed to return to their homes until Tuesday morning at the earliest, Leggett told a group of residents.

About 2,100 people were evacuated from areas threatened by the fire overnight, Ducheneaux said.

The Lake Meredith Harbor subdivision remains under evacuation.

Red Cross teams are setting up evacuation centers for those affected by wildfires. In the Borger area, people should head to Johnson Community Center, 1201 Bulldog Blvd. In Fritch, these are the safe places to go: Fritch High School, 538 Eagle Blvd The fire was about 75 percent contained by 9:30 a.m. Monday, officials said.

“It’s really bad,” said Danny Richards, Hutchinson County emergency management coordinator. “It looks like a war zone. It’s a disaster.”

One person died of a heart attack during the fire, said Fritch City Manager John Horst.

“We don’t feel like it was associated with the fire,” said Hutchinson County Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Cindy Irwin. “He had a lot of cardiac issues. He was found in his yard.”

The homes destroyed by the fire, located about one mile north of Fritch in Lake Meredith Harbor, were a mix of mobile and traditional homes, Richards said.

Fritch Postmaster Laura Richardson said the post office is holding mail for residents who have been evacuated.

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area personnel aided in the response to the gust-fueled blaze.

“We had everybody we have out. I’d say over a dozen fire personnel on engines, all our operations guys,” said Chief Ranger Paul Jones. “We had a little property damage. Fritch Fortress and Sanford Yake are closed, but Harbor Bay (neighborhood) is catastrophic.”

Around noon, almost all park fire personnel were out working the fire.

“I’ve got two getting some winks (sleep), but all my other folks are out,” Jones said.

The fire broke out about 4 p.m. Sunday and prompted a response from about 25 different fire departments in a 165-mile radius. Richards said humidity from storms that had moved in through the night was helping and firefighters hoped to have the fire completely contained sometime during the night.

The Randall County Fire Department brought two brush trucks, an engine and three command units from Randall.

“We went to assist with structure protection and helped mop up a flank area,” said Deputy Chief Dennis Gwynn. “We got home about 3:30 this morning.”

In addition, the department brought its Mobile Operations Center which supports the incident command as a headquarters for communications for all emegency-response units involved.

The Operations Center remains on the scene.

Amarillo National Weather Service meteorologist B.J. Simpson said the humidity was 65 percent about 3 a.m. Winds were traveling north and northwest and were 25 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour, Simpson said. A shift in winds earlier in the evening caused emergency personnel to close Highway 136 and all traffic through Fritch as the fire threaten to approach the city and smoke and dust lowered visibility to dangerous levels, said Department of Public Safety Trooper Chris Ray.

Residents of Sanford, which were under a mandatory evacuation order at one point, were allowed back into their homes after 11 p.m. Evacuees were directed to centers established at Sanford-Fritch High School and Celebration Church in Fritch and Johnson Park Youth Center in Borger.

Robert Vinyard, a Borger city council member, said there were between 50 and 60 residents from Sanford at the Borger evacuation site, but the number had dropped to about 10 once the residents were allowed back in their homes. He said the center opened its doors about 8 p.m. and immediately began receiving blankets and supplies from people and businesses in the community.

“We appreciate all their help and concern,” Vinyard said of those who donated. “It makes our job easier.”

The center was not in need of any supplies Sunday night, said Vinyard and the other council members. The centers in Fritch were in good shape for the night as well, said Steve Pair, executive director of the American Red Cross Texas Panhandle chapters.

Pair said they had about 57 displaced residents at the high school and about 70 at the church. Fifteen Red Cross volunteers were assisting at the three evacuation centers, with more on the way to begin damage assessment in the morning, Pair said.

By 2 a.m., Richards said fire crews were in affected areas, but were being hindered by down power lines as they attempted to assess damages and investigate if there was anyone injured in the fire. There had been no reported injuries at the time, said Richards.

The fire was the third in the area Sunday, said Richards, with the first occurring at 4 a.m. By 2 a.m., fire crews were attempting to complete a shift change to relieve firefighters who had been on duty the longest.

“Some of the firemen haven’t slept in 30 hours,” said Richards.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien