Series of fires in Jeff Davis County under investigation by Texas A&M Forest Service 

Sebastian Flores, wildland capitan for the Fort Davis Fire Department, walks Judge Curtis Evans through the process of assessing the origins of a fire and its spread. There have been four fires in Jeff Davis County in the past week without clear causes, prompting an investigation by the Texas A&M Forest Service. Photo courtesy of the Fort Davis Fire Department.

JEFF DAVIS COUNTY — A series of four fires that occurred last week in Jeff Davis County with unknown causes are currently under investigation by the Texas A&M Forest Service. 

The agency will determine whether or not the fires — all which were roadside starts, with two occurring last Wednesday and another two occurring Sunday — were accidental or arson. 

Jim Fowler, a spokesperson for the Fort Davis Volunteer Fire Department, said the investigation was launched due to the fact that the fires occurred in close succession during times when weather conditions weren’t particularly dangerous. 

“Certainly four fires, without thunderstorms, on days without wind, are concerning — they may not be suspicious, but it’s certainly concerning,” said Fowler. 

“It could be catalytic converters or somebody tossed a cigarette butt while parked on the side of the road, or any of those possible causes. But we are investigating because the number that we’re seeing is quite large,” he added. 

Scorched terrain in Jeff Davis County due to recent fires which are under investigation for possible arson by the state. Photo courtesy of the Fort Davis Fire Department.

The first two fires occurred last Wednesday, one near Madera Canyon by the Lawrence E. Woods Roadside Park burned less than an acre, the other — coined the Rock Pile Fire — occurred on Highway 166 near Highway 118 burned around 180 acres of rugged terrain. The Texas A&M Forest Service was called in to assist with the Rock Pile Fire and no structures were threatened. 

A few days later, on Sunday, two additional fires broke out near the Brewster-Jeff Davis county line on Hwy 118. Both were put out quickly and were confined to less than an acre. Assisting in the recent firefighting efforts in addition to the Fort Davis Volunteer Fire Department were local crews from the Davis Mountains Resort, Cherry Creek, McDonald Observatory and the Alpine Fire Department.  

Fowler said because the fires began on highway right of ways, which are state property, the Texas A&M Forest Service, a state agency, will conduct the investigation, assessing burn patterns and more. A timeline for when the investigation will conclude has not yet been provided, said Fowler. 

If causes are ruled accidental, an educational campaign about fire danger, or other preventative measures, may need to be taken, said Fowler. 

“We either need to work on fire prevention and notifying people not to park their cars on the right of way,” said Fowler. “Or, if there are any other concerns, [we will have to] address those.” 

On Wednesday afternoon there was an additional brush fire located near the Solar Park, but crews from the observatory and Fort Davis were able to put out the flames quickly and determined the cause of the fire was electrical, likely due to power lines and the heavy storms in the area, according to Fowler.