Wildfire near Joshua is close call for dozens of families




Posted on July 14, 2011 at 12:33 PM

JOHNSON COUNTY, Texas — Hot and dry conditions dry conditions helped fuel a wildfire west of Joshua on Wednesday evening.

The 40-acre blaze along FM 917 destroyed one vacant home; several other buildings along with gas wells were in the line of fire.

Aerial views showed one homeowner in a nearby subdivision using a garden hose to moisten the bone-dry ground cover near his residence.

The Bullard family jumped in the car and drove up and down the road, checking on neighbors. They stopped to try to help young Hannah Witt catch her horse.

"He's not used to cars and traffic and stuff like that, so he started running away because he got spooked," Witt said.

A neighbor brought the family's animals to safety — including a cat and a dog — but when Dakota the horse got away, evacuation roadblocks meant it wasn't safe for anyone to chase him.

"I'm just afraid that he won't come back," Hannah said.

The fire started after five o'clock, quickly burning a home on FM 917 near Joshua.

By 6:30, the town's mayor, Joe Hollarn, was knocking on doors, telling families to evacuate.

"Back here we had about 35 or 40 houses that it got close to," Hollarn said. "It probably got within 50 to 100 yards."

A mandatory evacuation order was issued to about 500 people in the path of the fire.

The Texas Forest Service used aerial tankers to dump water on the blaze.

At eight o'clock it was declared under control, and evacuation orders were lifted.

Several volunteer fire departments worked to battle the fire. They struggled with a water supply that was said to be a problem.

One firefighter was hospitalized for heat exhaustion in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.

E-mail chawes@wfaa.com