Those scary old wildfires

It is dry here in the Southeast edge of Texas. But it isn’t as dry as areas to the north and west of here where wildfires are doing some serious damage. I hope it stays that way.

Almost a quarter-million acres of land have been scorched in Texas since Dec. 26, 2005, according to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Management. Some 238 homes have burned since that time and the fires have caused several fatalities.

More than 20 years ago I worked as a municipal firefighter in a town of about 30,000 people. Primarily we fought structure fires — houses and buildings — but we also battled our share of grass and woods fires. Grass fires can be downright scary. I mean, you wouldn’t think of grass burning as particularly scary compared, say to a huge warehouse or home on fire. But they are deceptively frightening.

I remember this fire one time in a pasture. It was on a spring day with extremely low humidity and gusty winds. My acting lieutenant and I drove our fire engine out in the pasture and the big vehicle got stuck. I can’t remember if I was driving or if Ron was. It didn’t matter.

Very quickly the small fire we were fighting turned bigger and we soon were out of water. I remember using pine tops and even my bunker coat in a feeble attempt to beat out the flames which soon became head high. Luckily, our lieutenant (who was off duty that day) happened to be at our station and heard our radio call for help. He drove out a reserve engine we had at the station which had a hose on a front bumper platform. Unlike our motionless pumper, which was in danger of being torched, this reserve truck could be driven while water was being pumped through the hoses. It saved old Engine 318 and may have saved me. That experience gave me a new, healthy respect for grass fires.

Hopefully the firefighters battling these blazes in Texas, Oklahoma and elsewhere will get a handle on all the blazes. I also hope they stay safe doing it.

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