Tag Archives: Palo Pinto County PK East Fire

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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Winds easing on FHR — Palo Pinto PK East Fire 17 APR 11

Flying Hat Ranch, 7:15 p.m. CDT, looking southward, wind is dying down.

Our back porch at Flying Hat Ranch, early evening after watching for fires today.

Here in Texas we have our disasters and I read today that Raleigh, North Carolina, has been hit hard by tornadoes.  These are events I do not like to have in common.

The winds are still high at 8:30 p.m., but are diminishing on our place in north Erath County, Texas (Flying Hat Ranch or FHR).  As you can see from the photos, we are fortunate that Spring has greened the pastures and trees about our porch and pastures.  North of us, only five miles or so, the country is not as green and in the Cross Timbers area north of Strawn, cedar trees and dry grass give fuel for fire.  I have neither heard nor read how these fires started, but arson is not suspected.  These events tumble out of random, discrete events, and we will probably never know how these fires began.

Here are photos taken this afternoon from the field.  All of these photos are north of Strawn, Texas, or at the command post.  Strawn is ten miles northwest of our place.

The order to evacuate Strawn is based on systematic criteria by the Texas Forest Service, Department of Public Safety and other state offices.  Strawn is not a ghost town as the result of the order, but villagers are quite cautious, standing in the yards and making their decisions to stay or leave.  I saw no panic or flight of citizens.  There were several dozens of horse trailers pulling horses going out of town along Davidson Cemetery Road.

With a click of your mouse, you may enlarge these photos.

North of Strawn on SH 16, six miles, looking west towards Ranger Hill area.

Bulldozers in field, cutting fire lanes along ranch pastures.

Cedar trees bursting in flame along SH 16.

Panoramic picture of fires west and northwest of Strawn.

Looking southward towards Strawn on SH 16.

North of Strawn, on Robinson Road. Fence posts burned from fire two days ago.

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North of Strawn, Texas (Palo Pinto County, PK East Fire) 17 APR 11

Field report and photo by iPhone (kind of slow to thumb a post).

Smoke and hotspots.  Looking south on SH 16 in the direction of Strawn.

Palo Pinto County, PK East Fire – The entire city of Strawn (pop. 764) and portions of Palo Pinto County, described as areas west of Highway 16 and south of Possum Kingdom Lake, are being evacuated. An evacuation order has been given for the Peninsula on Possum Kingdom Lake. The Peninsula has approximately 300 homes and a campground. Fire is estimated at 1,000 acres.

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