ABILENE, Texas – A Texas pastor said he and his family have had to evacuate twice this week because of a large wildfire that ignited near Abilene on Tuesday.
The Mesquite Heat fire is burning about 20 miles southwest of Abilene and has consumed 9,613 acres since it started Tuesday evening. According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, the blaze is 25% contained as of Friday.
Todd Dole, a pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church, told FOX Weather on Friday that his family was first told to evacuate Tuesday evening.
"At that point, some of our neighbors were already evacuating or riding horses past our house and, kind of, moving away in a caravan," Dole said.
Dole said the community was optimistic firefighters would be able to get a handle on the blaze. Officials even allowed them to return home Wednesday, but then things took a turn.
"We saw the planes dumping fire retardant pretty quickly on the fire, and we were hoping they could get it under control, and we’d get back home quickly, but it got away and spread pretty rapidly on Wednesday," he said.
That meant the Dole family had to evacuate a second time. They’ve been away from their home ever since.
"After we had evacuated the second time, my family and I found a place to kind of watch from a hill nearby, and we saw fire and smoke coming up right form the area that our house is located in," Dole said.
Nearly 30 homes have been destroyed by the fire, but Dole’s home was spared.
"Thankfully, we were able to confirm Thursday morning that the fire came right up to our house, but our house was safe," Dole said.
Some of his neighbors weren’t so lucky. He said people just around the corner from his house lost their homes.
Dole said fire activity seems to have diminished a bit on Thursday, and he is hopeful his family can return home sometime Friday.
Risk of flare-up
A disaster has been declared in Taylor County, where the fire is located. According to a Facebook post from the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, there is still a concern that the fire may flare up again and more evacuations may be necessary. However, evacuation orders are being lifted for some areas.
Forecasters say conditions are still favorable for the rapid spreading of wildfires in western Texas. An elevated fire weather risk exists for places such as Abilene, Amarillo and Fort Stockton. A critical fire weather risk exists for the Lubbock area and points west into New Mexico.
One of many
The Mesquite Heat fire is just one of several fires that the Texas A&M Forest Service is working. Here is a list of active fires being reported:
- Mesquite Heat Fire, Taylor County - 9,613 acres, 25% contained
- Coconut Fire, Wilbarger County - est. 26,000 acres, 45% contained
- Twin Starts Fire, Llano County - est. 420 acres, 75% contained
- Dry Branch Fire, Hamilton County - 1,407 acres, 85% contained
- Pope 2 Fire, Schleicher County - est. 2,530 acres, 75% contained
- Slab Road Fire, Llano County - 57 acres, 90% contained
- Sandstone Mountain Fire, Llano County - 351 acres, 95% contained
- Johnson Fork Fire, Kimble County - 55 acres, 80% contained
- Mayfield Fire, San Saba County - est. 1,250 acres, 40% contained
For more information about wildfires in Texas, go to tfsweb.tamu.edu.