Firefighters, forest service gearing up for another tough wildfire day

Low humidity, heavy winds, setting scene for more fire trouble, officials say

In the midst of battling a big grass fire in the Hill Country, firefighters have concerns about nature potentially undoing their hard work.

SAN ANTONIO – In the midst of battling a big grass fire in the Hill Country, firefighters have concerns about nature potentially undoing their hard work.

They have been working since Tuesday afternoon to put out a fire that has stretched across parts of Blanco and Hays counties.

What is called the “Smoke Rider Fire” has burned about 800 acres so far in an area west of Ranch Road 165 near Highway 290.

Walter Flocke, public information officer with Texas A&M Forest Service, says crews working all night managed to make some small steps toward improving the situation.

“Our crews made good progress using aircraft and using heavy equipment to begin building containment line,” he said. “That containment line is 30 percent done.”

Flocke said crews stood ready Wednesday morning to continue trying to build a ring around the fire and to keep watch on some remaining hot spots.

He said plans also called for flying a plane and helicopters over the area to give crews on the ground a bird’s eye view.

Flocke was not able to say right away whether any buildings had been damaged or destroyed.

During the height of the fire, people living in the fire danger zone were encouraged to evacuate.

Although an emergency shelter had been set up at Blanco United Methodist Church, the parking lot was empty as of 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Flocke said drought conditions are what caused the fire to spread so quickly, and he’s concerned the danger could increase.

“The moisture is so low in this live vegetation that fire can burn readily in anything from grass up to large diameter trees,” he said. “With low humidity and even higher winds than yesterday, we’re expecting fire elevated to near critical fire weather today.”

While it may be up to fire crews to battle the flames, Flocke said there are things people at home can do to prevent fires.

He urged everyone to take extra care when handling anything that can cause a spark.

“Things like mowing your lawn and especially in the heat of the day and dry grass, or driving through tall dry grass,” Flocke said.

He said although people may not even realize it, their everyday actions can lead to this type of trouble if they’re not careful.


About the Authors:

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.