Sunday, March 19, 2006
Area firemen respond to Panhandle
Monitor Staff Reports
GUN BARREL CITY–Four firefighters from Payne Springs and three from Gun Barrel City have returned from a quick trip to the Texas Panhandle to assist in fighting wildfires there, which have scorched about 750,000 acres and claimed 11 lives since last Sunday.
The men were relieved about 10:30 a.m. Thursday, after flames were isolated to a number of steep canyons and gullies, where it was being fought from the air with the release of fire retardant, Payne Springs Training officer Sean Kelsay told The Monitor, in a phone interview from the scene.
The volunteers responded to a call from the Texas Forest Service to Henderson County Fire Departments at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14, and were ready to hit the road at 10 p.m. that night.
The two teams arrived in Amarillo eight hours later. Payne Springs firefighters were assigned to Amarillo Task Force One, along with Midland and Howard County, to protect the city’s east side.
GBC firefighters were assigned to fill in at nearby McLean. GBC’s Marty Sitzmann reported fighting a few fires there.
Payne Springs Fire Chief Randy Harley noted the men responding to the call took off from work, plus the fire departments are out the expense of fuel and maintenance on the two vehicles and equipment accompanying the responders.
“We are fortunate in this area to have volunteers and departments with this kind of initiative, and should remember this when these departments are seeking donations to operate,” Harley said.
The state responded to the emergency, which included 227 new fires within a 24-hour period, destroying 15 homes and burning 191,000 acres, with 26 aircraft, 55 bulldozer crews, 13 heavy fire engines and more than 350 personnel directly engaged in fight the blazes, a press release from the governor’s office stated.
More than 133 missions were flown with 135,000 gallons of fire retardant dropped, credited with saving 450 homes, the governor’s office stated.
In addition, firefighters from Oklahoma and New Mexico have been working in Texas since last weekend.
Additional bulldozer crews from Georgia and South Dakota were en route to the scene Tuesday, the release stated.
Monday night the bodies of four fire victims were found in a vehicle in Roberts County.
The fires also claimed the lives of three from Hutchinson and four in Gray County.
Three volunteer fire fighters from Howardwick in Donley County were critically injured, two of which are in intensive care at Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo.
Since Dec. 26, 2005, more than 10,365 separate wildfires in Texas have burned nearly 3.7 million acres and destroyed 397 homes.
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