Wildfire still burns, but 70% contained

JEFF DAVIS COUNTY – Over 400 firefighters from all over Texas and the nation remain on duty in the Davis Mountains as the wildfire that started last week on May 1 continues to burn.

Fire officials – local, state and federal – say the fire is about 70 percent contained and that barring any big winds or lightning strikes such as the one 10 days ago that set all this in motion, it could be completely out by early next week. More than 19,000 acres have been scorched.

Dubbed the McDannald Fire after the name of a family that purchased part of the old Jones Ranch near the intersection of the loop road and the highway to Valentine – Ranch Road 505, the fire has been in the thick brush and canyons and on top of the ridgeline where the going can be tough.

There have been no injuries or loss of structures since the fire began, even with the powerhouse winds of midweek last Wednesday and Thursday.

Hot shot firefighters such as the Boquillas, Mexico crew of Los Diablos have gotten to the top of the ridges of some of the highest mountains in the Davis chain and set up camps where they are fighting the fire day and night.

Helicopters have been delivering food and water to about 70 or 80 of those men and women known as hot shots, some from California and Utah mixed in with the more well-known bunch from Mexico.

Helicopters, single engine planes and tankers with retardant and water have been steady dousing the fire where it breaks out.

The bulk of the firefighters are set up at Bloys Campground although many are in Fort Davis all around the firehall across from the courthouse.

Jeff Davis County Fire Marshal Roy Hurley said the response has been “just outstanding. We’ve got people here helping from every direction. When some crews go back home, others come in and take their place. We think that it might be possible for a significant number of these resources to leave here by this weekend and certainly by next Monday, especially if the weather holds.”

That last looked a little iffy Tuesday when a lightning storm blew through the area, at least four new fires touching off on Star Mountain towards Balmorhea.

Fortunarely rain put all four out as brief showers accompanied the wind and lightning.

Like Hurley, Jeff Davis County Judge Jeannette Duer has stayed close to all the activity and was eager to thank all those who have come forward with food, water and offers of help.

Fort Davis Volunteer Fire Department Chief Pat Olivas and his volunteer crews including those from departments in Valentine, Davis Mountains Resort and Marfa have been busy both in town and out at Bloys and on the fire at various locations in the resort.

Voluntary evacuations have been in business for a week now, but most residents of the DMR and Crow’s Nest have stayed close to their homes.

As Hurley noted, the firefighters have come from departments in all directions – Beaumont, Nacogdoches, Jasper, Lufkin to the far eastern edges of the state, Fredericksburg, Bandera and other Hill Country crews, trucks and men and women from Abilene, Merkel and on towards Fort Worth, Plano, Dallas, McKinney, Frisco, Wichita Falls, – the emblems on the trucks and the uniforms the firefighters wear give testimony to how many parts of the state have responded to the fire.