Evacuation orders were issued in parts of several central Texas counties late Thursday as crews worked to contain the flames in dangerous fire weather caused by high winds and dry conditions.
According to a Thursday night update from the Texas A&M Forest Service, the wildfires that combined to form the Eastland Complex blaze have charred more than 38,000 acres.
Evacuation orders were in effect for parts of Eastland, Brown, and Comanche counties, and no injuries had been reported thus far, according to Kari Hines, a Texas A&M Forest Service spokesperson. According to an update on the national Inciweb wildfire information system, approximately 475 homes in Gorman have been evacuated. According to Inciweb, “evacuations are being completed in a number of impacted towns, including Carbon, Lake Leon, and Gorman.” “Highway 6 is closed through Carbon.”
The complex is made up of at least four fires that started this week, according to the site. According to the forest service, the complex is still 0 percent contained as of Thursday night.
A church and several downtown buildings in Ranger, about 10 miles northeast of Eastland, were destroyed by fire on Thursday.
“I’ve been the fire chief here for 40 years, and when something like this happens… it hurts. It is detrimental to the entire community “Darrell Fox, Chief of the Ranger Fire Department, stated. “This church had been standing for 100 years. [And] when I first started working for the City of Ranger, this was my first fire station. So, you know, there’s a lot of it that’s sentimental.”
Affiliate According to WFAA, crews requested air support to help fight the fires on Friday morning. Aviation crews were available to assist, but high winds were likely to keep them grounded at times, according to the Forest Service.
The forest service also reported that a 7,000-acre fire in nearby Runnels and Coleman counties escaped containment lines late Thursday due to “high winds causing fire activity to pick up.” According to the fire service, the fire was half-contained.
The Coleman Fire Department posted on Facebook Thursday evening, “Highway 153 has been closed to non-emergency personnel incoming traffic.” “Several homes have been destroyed, and crews are attempting to keep the fire from spreading to the roadways. The American Red Cross has been contacted to help with shelter operations.”
Officials from the state transportation department have also asked residents in Runnels and Coleman counties to “avoid the area of Carbon to Gorman to Lake Leon to allow access for first responders to work to control/extinguish this wildfire that has closed” parts of Highway 6.
In a later post Thursday night, the fire department stated that those living north of the highway should be able to return home “in a couple hours.”
Nearby, the National Weather Service of Abilene/San Angelo said Thursday night that an evacuation in Taylor County, which included parts of Abilene, had been lifted late Thursday, but urged residents to remain vigilant as critical fire weather conditions were expected to persist. The Storm Prediction Center had issued a “extremely critical” fire risk for the Edwards Plateau and the Permian Basin, including San Angelo, earlier in the day.
Separately, the forest service responded to a request for assistance in Sterling County on Thursday for another blaze that had grown to over 3,800 acres and was about half-contained, according to the agency. Gov. Greg Abbott had directed the state’s emergency management division to activate more resources to combat “escalated fire weather conditions” the day before, and urged residents across the state to “remain weather-aware and practice wildfire safety diligently throughout the rest of the week to keep their communities safe.”