High spring winds bring brush fires to Brewster County

Brewster County first responders have battled a series of brush fires over the past week, preventing serious wildfires from taking off. Photo courtesy of the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office.

BREWSTER COUNTY — Over the past week, Brewster County first responders have consistently battled clusters of brush fires. With conditions likely to remain dry, hot and windy over the next few weeks, officials are hoping that public awareness and extended burn ban restrictions will help keep county residents safe.

On May 5, multiple brush fires broke out around the county. The largest and fiercest fire was along Highway 118, spanning about 20 acres. Luckily, the fire was remote enough that no people or structures were injured — but the Alpine Fire Department advised caution through social media.

On May 8, a storm system moving through the area brought lightning strikes that ignited several small fires. A more severe fire broke out near the Paisano Baptist Encampment between Marfa and Alpine — the Marathon, Marfa and Alpine Volunteer Fire Departments responded alongside the Texas Forestry Service and the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office.

The first responders successfully put a stop to the blaze — only for onlookers to report a reignition early in the evening. An hour and a half later, officials considered it officially snuffed, saving several homes and hundreds of acres of property.

At press time, Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson said that all of these scattered fires were contained — but that county government was taking extra precautionary measures.

The county’s burn ban can be renewed by the Brewster County Commissioners Court every 90 days — both Brewster and Presidio counties have been in lock step throughout the spring to help prevent disaster.

Typically, county residents can still have controlled burns on their property if officials are properly notified in advance. Dodson said that’s no longer the case in Brewster County — windy conditions have shifted vegetation enough it’s hard even for savvy landowners to make safe decisions. “You just can’t tell how dry it is,” he explained.

Dodson stressed that it wasn’t just lightning strikes and intentionally set fires that could quickly spiral into something else — tossed cigarette butts and parking over dry grass can also ignite wildland fires. He’d even seen instances of a chain dragging behind a trailer sparking a blaze.

For now, he’s just grateful for the local network of fire departments and other emergency personnel that have been able to stave off disaster. “We’ve been really lucky that our response has gotten out there so quickly,” he said. “I’m just knocking on wood right now.”