Wildfire raging in SE McCulloch, still out of control

A wildfire that began in western San Saba County Tuesday evening has now moved into and burned over 2,500 acres of McCulloch County ranchland. The fire reportedly started from lightning strikes that accompanied brief rain showers that passed through the area late Tuesday afternoon. The origin of the blaze was actually in San Saba County but high winds carried the flames into McCulloch County crossing the San Saba River and onto ranchland owned by 4K Land and Cattle Company. “We responded to the scene Tuesday evening and found approximately 150 acres in San Saba County on fire,” said Brady Fire Chief Jonathan Weidemann. “The fire was being fed by the high winds and the dry cedar. We, along with several other departments, fought throughout the night to try and contain the blaze but the weather worked against us and it continued to spread.” Firefighters from several area towns were summoned to the scene throughout the night and early hours of Wednesday morning. By midday Wednesday representatives from as many as 15 different fire departments were on the scene but the fire continued to burn out of control. Tough terrain that was unreachable with fire trucks made attacking the head of the fire impossible. Fire crews spent all of Wednesday flanking the fire to try and keep it from spreading. The severe terrain was so remote and rough in some areas that firefighters were unable to reach the blaze and they were forced to watch as the blaze grew in strength. Several trucks including military issue 6×6 vehicles converted into brush trucks sustained flat tires trying to reach the blaze. Volunteers from a local tire company repaired the tires on the scene. As daytime temperatures heated up and humidity levels lowered, the fire regained strength throughout the day Wednesday. Shifting winds blew flames back and forth across the wooded terrain and the size and intensity of the fire prompted Texas Forest Service (TFS) officials to call in state resources to aid in fighting the fire. After being overrun by the blaze and retreating to a distant staging area, fire crews helplessly watched the fire continue along the hillsides waiting for air support to knock down the 30 to 50 foot flames. Early Wednesday afternoon, a C-130 cargo jet loaded with fire retardant began making drops on the sides of the fire to help contain the lateral spread of the blaze. Two Blackhawk military helicopters equipped with water dropping apparatus also arrived on the scene to help contain the fires. “The best we can do during the heat of the day and with this wind is to try and contain the sides of the fire,” said TFS agent Clint Cross. “Our best chances at getting total containment on this fire will come this evening and tonight if and when the winds calm.” A total coordinated effort to provide continuous support for the firefighters and volunteers has been ongoing throughout the entire ordeal. Local businesses and restaurants have been working hard to provide an endless supply of food, drinks and necessary supplies to keep workers and volunteers fed and hydrated while working the fire lines. Late Wednesday evening, the fire had again gained intensity and had moved south raising the total acreage to nearly 3,000 acres burned. Texas Department of Transportation and the TFS have brought in several pieces of heavy equipment including a trac vehicle specifically designed to fight fires in remote and hard-to-reach areas to help create and hold firelines. As nightfall came Wednesday, relief crews from surrounding towns arrived on the scene to help provide support to weary firefighters. One firefighter from Eden was taken to the Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital with unknown injuries. According to Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Sayles, two additional bulldozers and two more Blackhawk helicopters were scheduled to be deployed to the scene Thursday. During the night and early morning hours, the fire made several large runs. As of presstime Thursday morning, firefighters were in the area battling the blaze waiting for additional resources to arrive.

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