Category Archives: Wildfire

George Catlin, Prairie Meadows Burning (1832)

George Catlin (1796-1872), Prairie Meadows Burning, 1832, 11 x 14.13 in., Smithsonian

Lately, some of my blogger friends have had fires break out near their cabins, farms and ranches.  George Catlin (1796-1872) in Prairie Meadows Burning (1832), portrays the flight of people on horseback from fire.

Three days ago, fire erupted thirty miles to the north of my place, near Possum Kingdom Lake.  It has been mostly put under control at this time.

(See another post of mine about George Catlin:  ‘The Day I Saw the George Catlins.’)

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Filed under Horses, Wildfire

Cloud portal to the coast

Thundershowers on either side of Interstate 20 west of Cisco, Texas, May 2012

Last Friday, May 11, 2012, I drove to Abilene for commencement at Cisco College where I instruct.  West of Cisco, on Interstate 20, I saw this cloud portal — at least that is what I call it.  I sped between the two thundershowers.  A few drops fell on my car.  The first couple of weeks in May is a time of showers and cool temperatures in west Texas.  That is not always true, for this time last year, I was busy writing about wildfires in my area.

I have a friend at Cisco College that teaches English and he traveled to the Oregon coast last year, staying near Seal Rock and Newport, soaking in cool temperatures and consuming seafood and local white wines.  He talks about moving to Oregon, selling his ranch and settling in the cooler climes.  I think about the higher altitudes of northern New Mexico around Truchas and Taos that have sharp winters and cool nights during the summer.

We both will probably stay put: he in Santa Anna, me in Mingus, for there are mild winters and days in May where thundershowers bring out the Cut-leaf Daisy, Fire Whorls, Queen Anne’s Lace, Purple Dandelions in brilliant colors while horses and cattle graze in lush Spring fields of gramma and bluestem.  I should like, however, to go to the Newport and Depoe Bay area of Oregon where my friend says, ‘There is a resident pod of whales for ten months out of the year about the coast.  You can see them surface and dive, surface and dive.’

I want to see that scene some day.  The cloud portal in the photograph above opens to the west, towards the Pacific, towards the whale.  And away from home.

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

Depoe Bay was added as an additional site my friend visited.  It is a central location for beautiful scenery and whales.  The boating outing in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ was filmed in the area.

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Filed under Adventure, Rain, Taos, Weather, Wildfire

Ranchito blossoms: Flowers of Flying Hat (14-19)

In my continuing task of photographing all different species of blossoms for one year on Flying Hat Ranchito (less than 2560 acres in western America), I have six new pictures to post, only two have I identified.  I thought it better to start posting the ranchito blossoms even though identification is lacking because I don’t want to archive these beautiful plants and I think posting the unidentified will stimulate me to do further research, or possibly you-as-reader have a quick classification in mind.

This time last year, my posts focused on the wildfires and drought.  Today, pastures are green — there is some browning already — and county fire bans in my area are lifted.

14. Milkweed

15. Nightshade

16. Texas vervain (Verbena halei)

17. Unknown

18. Unknown

19. Annual Phlox, periwinkle

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Filed under Flowers of Flying Hat, Wild Flowers of Texas, Wildfire

Pyrocumulus over Possum Kingdom Lake

Pyrocumulus over Possum Kingdom Lake (MSNBC photo, August 2011)

As I drove back to the ranchito yesterday afternoon from Abilene, moving with light traffic on Interstate 20 near Eastland, Texas, I looked northeast and saw towering pyrocumulus clouds. Approximately forty to fifty miles away from where I drove on the highway, I pinpointed the fires at Palo Pinto, Texas, or Possum Kingdom Lake. My ranchito lay far away from the inferno, so my anxiety lessened and I began to think more intently about the precise location. The smoke rose high in the sky, becoming pyrocumulus, rolling and billowing upwards.  It had started at about 1:30 p.m.

When I arrived at the house, I turned on the television and Dallas-Fort Worth stations reported the fires near Possum Kingdom Lake, the southeastern side of the huge lake that dams the Brazos River, the largest river in Texas. In April, fires had erupted about the lake, destroying homes and thousands of acres of trees and grass with attendant wildlife. Once again, Possum Kingdom habitat ignites, the residents flee not having time to salvage photos or documents.

I ruminate that our region suffers a drought, cow tanks dry, underbrush decadent and my primary source of water, the Barton Creek Cooperative, restricts water use with heavy penalties for violators.  In the Possum Kingdom fire zone, summer camps for teenagers and children abound, primary homes and secondary homes stand close to trees that are pruned carefully, the underbrush removed as a fire hazard.  Yet, so, when the spark falls on the dead, crackly grass and brush, natural forces beyond man’s control take precedence and airships with their whap-whap-whap of whirling blades pour water onto flames that send smoke and ashes high into the sky, creating pyrocumulus in the blue skies of Texas.  I think of a line from Full Metal Jacket:  Who is in command here?

The origin of the fire is unknown and as of this morning, August 31, the fire is not contained.

For a morning news report, August 31, 2011, see “Wildfires burning homes in Texas, Oklahoma,” from MSNBC.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

The quote from the movie, “Who’s in command here?” originally read Apocalypse Now.  The proper citation is from the movie, Full Metal Jacket.

The photograph from MSNBC shows smoke and ash close to the ground and none of the “clouds” are pyrocumulus.  I saw the pyrocumulus while on the interstate highway and I failed to use my iPhone to photograph the phenomenon. 

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Filed under Life Out of Balance, Weather, Wildfire

Flaming rainbow

Summer solstice rainbow

In the country, dust and heat on summer solstice day in Texas compress the air and stifle activity unless pickup doors close and air conditioning is set to near maximum.  Cattle bunch up under the shade of mesquite and live oak, chewing cud, panting and resting.  Highway construction workers — I see them between Mingus and Abilene — don white, flowing bandannas about their neck, issuing profiles of Bedouin upon the Arabian desert.  The workers move slowly, crumbling with drills and backhoes the old asphalt so that concrete may be laid for continental traffic.  They toil for dollars, but mostly for future mirages in far-off lands.

So dry, the forest service retorts, that in the recorded weather history of  Texas, no drier period between last October and May has occurred.  As the sun set two days ago, smoke from wildfires westward turned the sun blood-red and I thought of all the science fiction tales that speak of dying worlds, collapsing stars and barren wastes of uninhabitable planets.

But yesterday evening, thunder and lightening came through the ranchito with rain that pooled ever so briefly on the county road, setting new potholes that I will not regret.  The sky, the air turned yellow, yellowish-green, and in the east where the squall line flew, the darkest blue set the mantlepiece for a rainbow, two of them, in the sky.  How infinite the patterns of the weather for one day the sun scorches the veld and the next day reflects the colors of rainbows.  Flame and rainbow melt.  The colors drape beautifully, artfully, upon a landscape that nourishes life and hope again, an elegant form that rests against me.  Dust and heat will come again, I know.  But yesterday a rainbow colored my sky and will again.

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Filed under Juniper, Wildfire

Arizona in Extremis | Find an Outlet

Arizona in Extremis | Find an Outlet.

My fellow blogger, Debra, out in Arizona is posting on the wildfires near her town of Bisbee.  This posting illustrates the problems of evacuation and caring for pets as well as the terrible destruction close-by her residence.  She has other postings about the wildfires.

There’s so much controversy over ignitions, forest management and evacuation that can be debated after the fires are put out.  Debra has spent major intervals of her life taking care of animals.  She and her husband moved to Bisbee several years ago from New England.

She is attempting to help her friend, Janice, who has many dogs and is worried about evacuation and her pets.

It’s terrible out there.

 

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Field note — all clear at Flying Hat

About our place, rain has fallen the last two days. For us the fire danger is gone.

Storms knocked out our internet provider.

This is a text message via wireless. Our IP does have a dialup number as backup and I will use it if necessary.

Yucca blossoms are on the way. A roadrunner darted across the Well House Corral. Queen Ann’s Lace erupts overnight. The pond is up.

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Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Wildfire

The clarity of wildfire Possum Kingdom 22 APR 11

Firefighters loading bulldozer for the run to Palo Pinto, Texas, when it was ordered evacuated.

I have resided mostly in Texas all of my life and when young I do not remember wildfire. For some reason pastures and forests in Texas have changed, and within the last ten years in south Palo Pinto County and north Erath County, fires have erupted and destroyed trees, wildlife, livestock, pastures, firemen and innocents.

By my count, around Strawn, Mingus and Gordon, Texas, three large wildfire outbreaks have occurred within the last ten years. On two occasions, I have hitched trailers to move horses off of our ranch and have prepared checklists for evacuation. At night, the mountainsides appear to have torches marching down to our pastures to kill and maim the living. The next morning, trees smolder on the slopes, the torches of the night before.

Fire brings a clarity to decision-making: there’s no ambiguity about whether to do one chore or another, read one book or the other or how to spend one’s day at work or on the ranch. You don’t worry about combing your hair or washing your face.

You fight the fire. You wait. Or, you evacuate. Forget muddling around and killing time for your home, livestock or grassland may not exist this time tomorrow. And, neither may wildlife you have observed. Only fishes in cow tanks will make it through the day if they are not sucked up by helicopters filling their water tanks.

Within this last week, the Possum Kingdom Complex Fire came within seven miles of our place before the night fell and winds died. Then the next day, the winds shifted and carried the flames northward. A shift in wind the day after that and Palo Pinto was ordered to evacuate, the town where we have our house insurance and our branch bank.

The clarity of wildfire is the clarity of life and death. Today you are here, but tomorrow all you possess and cherish may be gone. Non-existence may be sooner rather than later. That much is clear.

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Filed under Life Out of Balance, Wildfire

Volunteer Fire Departments — Possum Kingdom Complex Fire 21 APR 11

Please note that if you wish to add your VFD to this list or give other pertinent information, please e-mail me at matthewsranch@msn.com and I will append your information to this list.  I mean no offense if you are not on this list, so assist me in compiling this information.  Thanks — Jack Matthews.

I have compiled a list of a number of volunteer fire departments that I have seen in the field fighting the Possum Kingdom Complex Fire on the southern, middle and western sides of the fire lines.  Contact the VFD by telephone for information on giving cash donations or other commodities.  Please note that other VFDs have worked in the fire zones that I do not list here.  I have seen Fort Worth, Bedford, Dallas, Graham, Coleman, Cunningham and other companies in the area.

These are the VFDs closest to my area in southern Palo Pinto-northern Erath Counties of Texas.

LONE CAMP VFD

Info/Chief (Charles Sims): (940) 329-8350
P.O. Box 485
Palo Pinto, TX 76484

Lone Camp VFD website
* * *

PALO PINTO VFD

PO Box 296
Palo Pinto, TX 76484
Telephone: (940) 659-3900

* * *

SANTO VFD (includes BRAZOS VFD)

201 E Rusk ST
Santo, TX
Telephone: 940-769-2060

* * *

GORDON VFD

111 E Crockett ST
Gordon, TX
Telephone: 254-693-5312
Fax: 254-693-5859

* * *

POSSUM KINGDOM VFD (West Side)

4809 Green Acres RD
Graham, TX
Telephone: (940) 549-8231
Fax: (940) 549-8265

* * *

MINERAL WELLS VFD

212 S Oak AVE
Mineral Wells, TX
Telephone: 940-328-7741
Fax: 940-328-7731

* * *

STRAWN VFD

610 Grant AVE
Strawn, TX 76475
Telephone: 254-672-5333

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68 degrees with light wind — Palo Pinto County South 20 APR 11

Please link and refer to the Texas Forest Service updates, Department of Public Safety and county law enforcement officials for up-to-date information.  I am unable to enter the restricted areas and the official pronouncements have the final say in operational policies during these wildfire events.  That being said, I stand by my field observations as described herein.

At about noon, I drove to Caddo by way of SH 717 from Ranger, turned east and drove US 180 to Palo Pinto, and then back home.

The winds blew light, not brazen as they have the last few days, and the temperatures never climbed above 70 degrees for the two hours I traveled along the southern edge of the Possum Kingdom Complex Fire.  The skies are overcast and early this morning a mist fell briefly.  As I drove the F-250 near the Macedonia Cemetery on SH 717, the temperature dipped to 64 degrees.  I saw one plume of smoke west of SH 717, and then as I sped past Caddo and down the Palo Pinto Mountains towards Palo Pinto, the hot spots I have seen in the last few days were calm.

Sadly, that was not the case farther east.  I saw smoke north of US 180 east of Possum Kingdom Lake, and the Highway Patrol blockaded SH 4 out of Palo Pinto towards Graford and SH 16.  I saw power company trucks carrying new poles to replace those that had been burned.

I read that the firefighters still labor at fire lines near Graford and Possum Kingdom East.  Despite overcast skies and lower temperatures, the fight continues.  See the Texas Forest Service updates on the right sidebar of the blog.  Click on their website for additional information.

From US 180, going south on SH 919, back to the ranch, all appeared clear of wildfire and smoke plumes.  Gordon, Texas, schools were open and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway construction and repair crews were assembling machines and materials adjacent to the Gordon Volunteer Fire Department and Emergency Responders.  Stowe Ford Company displayed their vehicles on their lots, a King Ranch F-250 looked especially nice.  The Stowe Ford Company in Gordon is the second oldest Ford dealership in Texas.

* * *

My wife teaches at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas, and the University sent an e-mail message yesterday, April 19, 2011, to the faculty.  The Methodist Church at Possum Kingdom Lake burned and the Methodist Conference has undertaken relief efforts to the area for all inhabitants, Methodist or not.  If you are thinking about donations for the Possum Kingdom Lake Complex Fire relief, I quote the e-mail below.  I have seen the Red Cross and Salvation Army stations set up at Strawn, Gordon and Palo Pinto.  They seem to be moving with the activity and need, so there also would be an opportunity to help.

The e-mail message I quote:

More than 1,000 firefighters are involved with the situation, 21 homes are reported burned as well as Cedar Springs United Methodist Church. Rev. Jim Senkel, pastor at Cedar Springs, reports the church has burned to the ground. People are still not permitted into the burn area, but you can help in this situation. The Weatherford, Brownwood and Fort Worth districts have been asked to supply 1,500 health kits to help the firefighters and those displaced from their homes. Health kit items include:

·         1 hand towel 15” x 25” to 17”x 27” kitchen (cleaning and microfiber towels are not acceptable)

·         1 washcloth

·         1 comb (comb must be sturdy and at least 8” long/no pocket combs or picks/rattail combs and combs without handles are acceptable)

·         1 metal nail file or clipper (no emery boards or toenail clippers)

·         1 bath size soap (3 oz. and larger sizes only in original packaging/all brands are acceptable)

·         1 toothbrush (adult size only/do not remove from original packaging)

·         6 adhesive bandages (¾” to 1“ size common household sizes)

·         One tube of toothpaste

·         1 plastic bag (one gallon size – sealable bags only to hold all the items)

We are asking everyone to help out with all of the other needs. Priority 1 and 2 list items are needed IMMEDIATELY:

1.  Firefighters & Police: Water, Gatorade, chapstick, non-perishable food items, chips, cheese & crackers, Wet Wipes, hand sanitizer, aloe vera lotion, sunscreen

2.  Victims: Immediate needs are personal items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, Wet Wipes, hand sanitizer, aloe vera lotion, sunscreen

3.  Victims: Long-term needs are household items.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact the Weatherford District office at 1-888-423-5378 or Laraine Waughtal, Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, at 254-595-1503.

Susan Briles

Mission Ministries

Central Texas Conference

464 Bailey Avenue

Fort Worth TX 76107

817/877-5222

800/460-8622

817/338-4541 fax

susan@ctcumc.org

20 APR 11 Map of region traveled today. SH 717 is far west, north of Ranger to Caddo.

Notes:

Correction: map caption changed. Distance legend should be 0.0 to 6.0 miles. SH 717 location identified.

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