Scenic Loop Complex fires contained

JEFF DAVIS COUNTY – For the second time in recent weeks, state and federal firefighters will fold up their tents and head to the next disaster now that all 20 of the separate wildfires are considered history.

By this weekend all of the support staff, trailers and tents which have been packed in and around the Fort Davis firehall west of the Jeff Davis County Courthouse will be history as well – at least for now.

Of course, that same story played out in early May when the first major wildfire lit up some 20,000 acres. A week to 10 days later crews left the county after some 400 firefighters and a small air force of support planes and helicopters beat that fire down. This round of fires started June 3 and 4 when another storm blew through, dotting the countryside with lightning strikes that resulted in 18 initial fires.

Two more joined that number as lightning moved in again this past Saturday. Those were on the eastern edge of the Davis Mountains Resort in the Jones Canyon country between the DMR and Blue Mountain. Ground crews from the DMR and Wofford/Skinny Friend Ranch joined with air tankers to knock the fires out by Sunday.

The original fires that numbered 18 were reduced to just six a week ago and they have been tamped down to none as of Wednesday of this week.

Again similar to what worked for the McDannald Fire back in May when Bloys Campground was set up as a base camp for firefighters another base camp was set up last week at the Texas Nature Conservancy headquarters on what was known as the Upper Ranch when the McIvor family ran the U Up, U Down Ranch.

The overall command headquarters was set up again in downtown Fort Davis.

The group of six fires still burning at his time last week was all in those rugged mountains north, west and east of the TNC base camp – with names like 48 Tank Fire, Windmill Fire, Long X Fire, Rincon Fire, Bear Mountain Fire and Jones Fire.

Final estimates put the burned acreage at around 20,000, similar to what burned in the early May fire.

And firefighters all agree – Jeff Davis and the surrounding area is by no means out of the woods when it comes to wildfires unless some major changes in weather patterns bless the country with much needed rains. Until then, the country will remain on high alert with plenty of fuel still available since round three of the 2018 fire season is still a possibility.

There has been no loss of structures, although one firefighter has died from an apparent heart attack. See story this page.

Jeff Davis County Fire Marshal Roy Hurley, Emergency Services Director Larry Francell and County Judge Jeannette Duer have all praised the work of not only the local volunteers in the county’s various fire departments but particularly the firefighters who came in from 13 different states and from fire departments from every corner of the state.

All are part of the Texas Interstate Fire Mutual Aid System, the same outfit that effectively got the May fires knocked down. Air power came in the form of a half dozen single engine aircraft tankers that repeatedly hit the hottest of spots, along with helicopters that were stationed at Alpine and Marfa airports. From Alamogordo, NM, the larger air tankers were called in – called VLAT for very large aircraft tankers, many of them the size of 737s.