As wildfires continued to burn in Eastland and Brown counties Monday, local and state agencies and volunteers are assessing the damage and gathering resources to help those who lost homes and property.
March was an active wildfire month across the state. Since March 14, local, state and federal firefighters have responded to 178 wildfires that have burned nearly 108,500 acres across Texas, @A&M Forest Service reported Monday.
Update on the size of the Eastland complex and other fires in major countries
Here are the active fires across the big country, according to updates from the A&M Forest Service Monday night.
• Eastland Complex, Eastland County – approximately 54,134 acres, 60% contained. The complex consists of 7 lights which are managed together:
• Kidd Fire, Eastland County (42,333 acres, 45% contained)
• Blowing Basin Fire, Eastland County (258 acres, 60% contained)
• Cedar Mountain Fire, Eastland County (179 acres, 40% contained)
• Oak Mott Fire, Brown County (4,031 acres, 80% contained)
• Wheat Field Fire, Eastland County (7,268 acres, 60% contained)
• Mangum Fire, Eastland County (approximately 11 acres, 95% content)
• Walling Fire, Eastland County (383 acres, 100% contained)
• Crews Gap Fire, Runnels County – approximately 8,100 acres, 90% contained
• Big L Fire, Erath/Hood County – approximately 11,000 acres, 20% contained
• Rifle Club Fire, Reeves County – 106 acres, 95% contained
• Ramsey Fire, Brown County – approximately 1,800 acres, 60% contained
• Loma East Fire, Jim Wells County – approximately 300 acres, 50% contained
Mixed blessing from Monday’s weather
Thunderstorms that passed through the region on Monday morning relieved the wildfires.
While morning humidity levels were low — about 0.05 inches in Abilene and 0.07 in Eastland, according to the National Weather Service website — higher humidity temporarily dampened favorable conditions for fire spread .
Southwesterly winds of 20 to 25 mph returned to the region on Monday afternoon, with gusts of up to 40 mph. Fires can spread quickly in such conditions, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a red flag warning for Jones, Taylor, Coleman, McCulloch and Mason counties.
The NWS forecast winds of 20 mph for Stephenville on Tuesday, dying out on Wednesday. Temperatures will range from a daytime high of 57 to a nighttime low of 40. Wednesday is expected to be partly cloudy with a high in the mid-60s and a low around 37.
Resources for wildfire victims
For those affected by the Eastland Complex fires in Eastland and Brown counties, here’s how to tap into available resources, according to Eastland County officials:
► Report Damage: Contact the Texas Division of Emergency Management online at damage.tdem.texas.gov and click “Wildfire Outbreak March 17th”. Using the iSTAT online application helps state officials track the extent of the damage. Reporting through iSTAT does not replace reporting damage to your insurance agency or guarantee assistance in the event of a disaster.
► Disaster Assistance Center: The center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Siebert Elementary Dome, 100 Little Maverick Trail, Eastland. Wildfire victims can receive help reporting home damage, register for possible cleanup assistance, and meet with the American Red Cross and other community partners offering resources and services.
► Donations: Eastland County currently discourages donations of clothing and household items. Donation collection sites include First Baptist Church in Eastland, Carbon Fire Department and Myrtle Wilks Community Center in Cisco.
The Community Foundation of Abilene has partnered with the Eastland Community Foundation to create the Eastland County Fire Relief Fund. A second fire fund was created to help other parts of the Big Country. To donate, visit cfabilene.org/firerelief, or write checks to the Community Foundation of Abilene with the name of the fund in the memo. Send checks to PO Box 1001, Abilene, TX Texas 79604.
► Animal Services: Texas Cattle Exchange, 9009 Interstate 20 in Eastland, provides shelter for pets and livestock. Gorman Milling Company, 302 Lubbock St. in Gorman, is a central distribution site for all donated hay and feed.
Tire burst causes fire between Cisco and Eastland
A tire blowout on an RV Sunday afternoon on Interstate 20 between Cisco and Eastland was blamed for one of the new wildfires at the Eastland complex.
The Cisco Fire Department was responding around 2:30 p.m. to a vehicle crash on a congested section of the freeway due to construction. Firefighters witnessed the eruption and responded when it started a large grass fire, according to Cisco FD’s statement on its Facebook page.
Cisco Ladder 4 was engulfed in fire, with damaged fire hose and nozzles.
The fire moved north towards State Highway 6, causing evacuations and the temporary closure of that road due to billowing black smoke.
Forest Service crews responded to help contain the fire, named Cedar Mountain Fire. As of 10:30 a.m. Monday, it had burned 179 acres with 0% containment.
Don’t be a fire tourist
Local officials are discouraging people from crossing burned areas to view the damage.
New wildfires remain a threat this week, and additional road traffic can impede fire crews responding to a scene.
Laura Gutschke is a generalist journalist and food columnist and manages the online content of the Reporter-News. If you enjoy local news, you can support local reporters with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.