by Drew Powell
HUTCHINSON COUNTY, Texas (KVII) — A fire on Tuesday in Hutchinson County that burned right up to the county’s airport is blamed for destroying a house provided by the county for the airport manager and his family to live in.
Despite the loss of the house, thanks to a quick multi-agency response the fire stayed confined around the airport before spreading out of control.
“Days like yesterday (Tuesday) with high winds are always a challenge in the panhandle for fire behavior,” said Tim Wells, resource specialist for Texas A&M Forest Service.
“We have a lot of topography in this area a lot of rolling hills,” said Archie Stone, wildfire mitigation specialist.
Add in a high volume of fuel for a fire to burn and within minutes a house can be destroyed. Stone tells ABC 7 News the fire around the airport could have been worse considering the elements.
“Plus with 50, 60 and 70 mile-an-hour gusts, the fire moves very rapidly so you know we’re really having to move and make decisions on the fly,” said Stone.
“It’s important to get those crews on the fire as quick as we can that way we can engage in suppression efforts and do point protection, structure protection and life safety,” said Wells.
“We had a lot of units out here and it made it to the last airstrip, number 21 and if it had made it past that it would have gone down to the river,” said Gary Alexander, Hutchinson County Commissioner. “Who knows, it would probably still be burning.”
Firefighters from multiple agencies were able to get the fire under control and save the Hutchinson County Airport which has hangars filled with airplanes.
The fire came close maybe too close to taking off and causing more damage to the airport before it was contained.
“Our fuel station is over there a little ways and it barely missed that so that was a good thing,” said Alexander. “As dry as it is it’s real important to pay attention and do what they tell you to do because you can lose your life easily.”
“Our priorities are firefighter safety, life and property so whenever they issue an evacuation order it’s very important to listen to it and to get out of the area,” said Stone.
A reminder if you’re asked to evacuate upon returning check your property carefully for hidden embers or smoldering fires.
As of Wednesday afternoon, officials were still trying to figure out how the fire ignited.
The fire was estimated to have burned 64.4 acres and is 100% contained.