When David Lipson smelled the smoke, he was sitting in his dining room on the phone with his son. He ran out of his home near Gorman, Texas, with his dog, gun, and a pair of guitars he bought in 1976, the year he married his wife.
The Eastland Complex was quickly engulfed in flames, and Lipson took one last look at his home of more than two decades from a nearby hilltop. It was here that he raised his two youngest sons, cared for his 97-year-old father until his death in 2018, and consoled his wife until she died two years later. Everything was gone in a matter of hours. The 64-year-old father of four, who had worked as a woodworker for decades and was now retired, couldn’t afford to insure his home. Bradley, his son, started a GoFundMe page in the hopes of assisting his father in rebuilding in the same location.
The Eastland Complex, which is made up of seven fires, has been devastating to parts of central Texas. Last Thursday, during evacuations in Carbon, a sheriff’s deputy was killed by the flames while on her way to check on an elderly person. The cause of the fire is being investigated, according to officials.
The fire has scorched more than 54,500 acres so far. According to the interagency reporting website InciWeb, it was 90% contained by Saturday evening. These figures remained largely unchanged as of Sunday evening. According to InciWeb, the largest of the seven fires, the Kidd Fire, which raged through Carbon, Kokomo, and Gorman, destroyed more than 140 structures.
Authorities issued evacuations for other parts of the state on Saturday, warning of critical fire weather conditions in the coming days, as residents of those communities reel from their losses — many of whom were left with little more than the few items they grabbed on their way out of their home.
The National Weather Service issued a fire warning and ordered mandatory evacuations in areas surrounding Medina Lake, including the town of Mico, late Saturday. About 40 miles northwest of San Antonio is Medina Lake.
Through the next few days, more areas in central and southern Texas will be under “elevated to critical fire weather conditions,” according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management. According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, dry conditions and high temperatures will create a risk for “significant fires” in the Western/Eastern Hill Country, South Texas, Rolling Plains, Cross Timbers, Southern Plains, and Trans Pecos from Sunday to Wednesday.
The weather service issued a red flag warning for all of west central Texas from late Sunday morning to late Sunday evening, indicating an increased fire risk.
Carbon, about 100 miles southwest of Fort Worth and 10 miles from Gorman, was one of the hardest hit communities by the Eastland Complex. The small town, which got its name from minerals discovered in the area in the late 1800s, is home to about 400 people, many of whom are long-time farmers and ranchers. According to a news release from the state attorney general’s office, the majority of the town was destroyed, including at least 86 homes.
Debbie Copeland’s house was one of Carbon’s first structures. The house was purchased by her family in 1999. With her three children and eight grandchildren, they created a lifetime of memories in it. When authorities came to her door on Thursday, urging her to evacuate, Copeland remembered another wildfire that forced her family to flee in 2006. Most Carbon homes were spared at the time.
So she only brought the necessities: her husband’s CPAP machine, which helps him sleep at night, his heart medication, and a pair of jeans to change out of her shorts. Copeland then drove 10 miles north to her daughter’s home in the city of Eastland.
“I’m so sorry about your house,” she received a text from a friend later that night. The fire swept through their neighborhood, destroying their home as well as the other houses on their street.
Other residents were unable to pick up anything from their homes due to a lack of time.