Hot spots and Possum Kingdom Lake wildfire 16 APR 11

US Highway 180, south of Possum Kingdom Lake

I went out this morning to view and photograph the Possum Kingdom Lake wildfire event. I was not able to see Possum Kingdom Lake because I do not have press credentials and State Highway 16 was blocked at the intersection of US 180.

Today the winds are calm, but tomorrow afternoon a Red Flag warning has been issued for west-central Texas.  I drove the F-250 from our ranch north of I-20 on SH 919 to Gordon, cut west along the Schoolhouse Road north of Gordon to St. Boniface Catholic Church on Dodson Prairie.  The elk behind the high field fence on the Guest Ranch appeared unharmed.  After driving by St. Boniface, I turned north on SH 16 and journeyed to US 180, turning west and headed in the direction of Possum Kingdom and Breckenridge, Texas.

As I ascended the small mountains about Ioni Creek on US 180, I saw blackened trees and fence posts that had burned last night.  The pasture lands were turned to cinders, but I saw no livestock affected.  Hotspots of fence posts and erosion barriers emitted smoke and flames.  Towards Possum Kingdom Lake, the Highway Patrol blockaded SH 16, and after a few more miles going west on US 180, I turned around and started back to the ranch.

I turned south on SH 16 towards Strawn, past Schoolhouse Road and St. Boniface and then realized why the Texas Forest Service and state officials had ordered an evacuation of Mingus and Gordon last night.  The fire last evening had leapt the highway and was headed southwest towards the two villages.  The Forest Service, Brazos Volunteer Fire Department and the Lone Camp Volunteers (other volunteer departments were also involved) had stopped it last night, but the frontline of combating it today and tomorrow was east of SH 16, about six miles north of Strawn.  The Texas Department of Public Safety and Forest Service set up command posts in Strawn.

The winds tomorrow are forecast out of the south at 25 m.p.h. so the winds will carry any fire to the north and east.  The Possum Kingdom Lake fire will not affect us.  We will wait and see what else transpires when the dry line (nicknamed the Marfa Line) passes by tomorrow afternoon, lowering the humidity.  Our ranch lies south of I-20 and we will be prepared for any outbreak of fire in our area.  That means that we have trailers hitched, grass and lawns watered and the dogs ready to go with Star, our paint gelding.

With the exception of the sunset photograph, I have the photographs arranged in the order I traveled and time that I shot the pictures.  When I came back to the house, I had to take off my coat and leave it in the utility room because it stank of smoke.

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Correction:  the church is St. Boniface, not St. Alban.

Changed verb conjugation: leap, leaped, leapt.

All photographs were taken NEF, uploaded JPEG.  NEF file sizes ca. 10 megs., a digital negative.


Filed under Wildfire

17 responses to “Hot spots and Possum Kingdom Lake wildfire 16 APR 11

  1. Kittie Howard

    Your photos tell an amazing story, Jack. Those hot spots are scary. What burned terrifies. But relieved to know you’re not in the path, so far, and that the winds will die down. This is not a pretty situation. Stay safe!

  2. Awful. So glad you haven’t been affected.

  3. I loved the photos of the burnt area, prickly pear cactus, and for sale sign. Something tells me the price just went down!

    Photos tell us all, nice presentation.

    Now for the rain.

    • I thought the exact same thing when I saw that photo. It pretty much sums up how many lives are affected by these fires. Did I miss somewhere how they think the fire was started?

      • No, you didn’t miss anything on causation. I’ve not heard any stories. They seem to be popping up everywhere. In Weatherford — 45 miles away — there is a serial arsonist about the town, but not out here. Or, at least we think so.

    • Now the rain. Thanks for the comment, Bill. I’m not so sure I like the slide show feature. I’m not sure a person can enlarge it easily and I always like enlarging Montucky’s. The price did go down. Oh, I found a stone wall up in the burn area, but was not in a spot to take photos of it. I’ll go back and try and find it again when the weather settles down.

  4. Kay Gray Malone

    Your photos are amazing, Jack. I don’t remember wildfires from growing up in TX. Is my memory selective or were there fewer and farther away. We lived in Ranger and then B’wood. I do remember suffocating dust storms in B’wood and years later in Lubbock. Any info or opinions? Truly hope your place is spared.

  5. I’m glad that the fires spared your area and that you are safe. It is always a little sad to see the burned areas, but it is also very satisfying to see how quickly the earth can recover from fire. Of course, at issue now is some rain and an end to the drought! It was mentioned in one of the news reports that I found that all of the stock water in a 100 mile radius had been used to fight the fires. That makes me very concerned for all of the folks in those areas and what they will have to go through just to water their stock.

    • The helicopters and fire trucks use, I would say, one-half to two-thirds of stock tank water nearby and up around Possum Kingdom, I would presume it’s mostly gone. What happens is that livestock in those areas use well water or cooperative water — like us on Barton Creek Water Coop — to get by. Those supplies, however, must be self-rationed. Possum Kingdom Lake is a huge! lake and it’s water resources can be and are tapped for livestock. Then, in the end, you sell your cattle at auction.

      Yes, with rain, it comes back. And, it almost always rains. Course, tell that to the folks in the Sahara. Well, you can’t, they’re gone.

  6. Those are excellent photos, as telling – or more so – than the more dramatic ones preferred by the media.

    It wasn’t until today that I realized a certain connection here. I spent several years enjoying property on TX 16 between Kerrville and Medina. Now I have a grasp of the northern end of the route.

    We’ve had smoke over Galveston Bay since last night: from the SW, then W, and now N. The wind last night was strong enough to cause striations. It was beautiful, despite the associated sadness. Tonight the winds have calmed here, and I hope the same for your area.

    • Yes, the winds calmed last night. Goodness gracious, cloud striations as far away as Galveston. Yes, that’s beautiful country along TX 16. Highway 16 goes by the Waggoner Ranch and other massive ranches farther north. I like to travel TX 16. I grew up traveling it a lot between Llano and Goldthwaite. When I go to Fredericksburg, we leave here, go four miles north to I-20, turn west, go about ten miles and hook a left or south turn to TX 16 and go all the way to Fredericksburg on TX 16, about 3.5 hours. Love it. Our caretaker will be in charge later this week while we go enjoy Fredericksburg at Easter. I need the stress-free atmosphere of the Inn at Baron’s Creek.

      Today, it’s a red flag day. I love the coast.

  7. Pingback: Smokey Bear Hotshots of Ruidoso, New Mexico, help fight Possum Kingdom fires | Sage to Meadow

  8. Hi Jack,

    Don’t guess I know you, but if you live in Mingus or thereabouts, I’m one of your neighbors. I was looking for photos of fire damage and came across your blog. Thanks for getting out and doing what I did not: make a photographic record of the damage done by the fire.

    One quick change I want to let you know about. The church out on Dodson Prairie is not St. Alban, but St. Boniface. My husband grew up across the road from that church and received his first communion there. I would have been utterly heartbroken, as many other would, had it been destroyed by the fire.

    Thanks again for the photos.



    • Hi Kate,

      Thank you for commenting and making the correction. Several years ago I was out there and I think there was a sign that gave its name, but when I was there the other day I didn’t see it and I guessed. I was writing on the fly at the time and could not quickly fact check.

      Yes, my wife and I live south of Gordon-Mingus about six miles on SH 108-CR 114 and your name sounds familiar.

      I hope all is well out where you are now. Today should give a change in the late afternoon.

      Again, thanks for commenting and helping me get things straight.


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